Q: I hear that getting enough vitamin D is important for good health, but also that lots of the supplements aren't reliable. How can I make sure I'm getting the right stuff? -- Shelly Z., Las Palmas, Calif.
A: You're probably referring to a recent study that found that actual doses of vitamin D in over-the-counter and compounded supplements varied from 9 percent to 146 percent of the amount listed on the label! And if you're taking a vitamin D supplement because you're deficient (1 billion folks worldwide are), you may be risking your health. Always take D-3 -- that's the form of vitamin D that your body needs to stay healthy.
Vitamin supplements don't need U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval before they hit the shelves, and at this point the industry isn't very well-regulated. But the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention is an independent group that tries to make sure supplements deliver what they promise on the label. If their "USP verified" mark is on the label, you know it has been tested and the product's contents have been verified. It's the best evidence that a supplement doesn't contain contaminants and actually does contain the ingredients in the amount stated. You can find a list of supplements tested by the USP at www.usp.org.
Now, a word about the powers of D-3 and why you're smart to be taking it as a supplement. A lack of vitamin D-3 contributes to everything from a weak immune system, gut problems, depression and diabetes to catching the flu.
Even though your body's natural D is activated by exposure to sunshine and a number of food sources have D-3 added, supplements are the easiest way to make sure you're getting enough. So pick up some USP-verified D-3, and take 1,000 IU daily. And have your doctor check your D levels -- we both aim for levels of 50 to 80 ng/ml.
Q: This is really embarrassing, but I'm obsessed with hooking up. I'm out on the town night after night. I'm miserable if I have to go home alone, and miserable when I don't. How do I stop? -- Evelyn Q., Syracuse, N.Y.
A: It sounds as though you may be struggling with what's popularly called sex addiction. And although the behavior is not yet recognized as a diagnosable condition in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, what researchers are calling "hypersexual disorder" may soon be.
There's a lot of research accumulating on this compulsive-addictive problem. We know that it can be a form of self-medication -- often in an attempt to ease depression or anxiety. And once this behavior takes control of your life (that's the definition of an addiction), it interferes with relationships, your work and your physical health. Sex addiction is associated with job loss, dissolution of an ongoing relationship and contracting sexually transmitted diseases.
Your best bet is to get help -- and the sooner the better -- so you can identify the feelings that fuel your actions. Look up "Sex Addicts Anonymous" online for more info. Also, cognitive behavioral therapy may offer you ways to change your behavior, and talk therapy can let you explore your subconscious motivations.
We urge you to combine those solutions with a daily workout: Go for 10,000 steps a day, or 45 to 60 minutes on the bike, in the pool or jogging. Add strength training two to three days a week, too. You'll dispel a lot of stress, ease depression and anxiety, and respect your body more.
You also may be surprised by how altering your diet can ease depression and change your attitude about yourself.
Good luck! We know you can do it!
(Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at firstname.lastname@example.org.)