Vitamin aisles today overflow with options; in 2009, consumers spent a whopping $26.9 billion on dietary supplements. Choice is wonderful, but it can also feel overwhelming, especially given often-confusing research news. Can't someone just tell you what you should be taking?

Increasingly, yes. Targeted for common health goals—such as immune-system support, heart health, or good digestion—well-researched combination supplements combine synergistic nutrients, which can be more convenient and cost effective.

Bone health

  • calcium
  • magnesium
  • vitamins C, D, K1, K2

Although most often associated with immunity, vitamin C is also essential for producing collagen, bones' foundational base layer. In a 17-year follow-up to the Framingham Osteoporosis Study, subjects with the highest vitamin C intake had the fewest hip fractures. Along with magnesium, vitamin D3 boosts calcium absorption. Vitamin K helps regulate bone metabolism.

Doses: At least 1,000 mg calcium with 500 mg magnesium, in more absorbable citrate forms. Plus, one or more of the following:

  • 500–1,000 mg vitamin C
  • 1,000–2,000 IU vitamin D
  • 35–45 mcg vitamins K1 and K2 (MK-7 form)

Take with a meal.

Try: New Chapter Bone Strength Take Care

Digestive health

  • digestive enzymes
  • fish oil
  • prebiotics
  • probiotics

As many as 70 percent of Americans have digestive concerns; experts say most can benefit from probiotics for healthy gut bacteria. Studies show probiotics can treat gastrointestinal illness, boost immunity, and even help prevent some cancers. Fiber-rich prebiotics such as inulin provide food for probiotics, allowing them to grow and colonize the GI tract.

Enzymes—protease, amylase, lipase and more—improve digestion, a plus as stomach-acid production declines during aging, meaning the body's own enzymes are less active and it's harder to break down food and absorb nutrients. Finally, the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil support immunity and overall gut health.

Doses:

  • 2 billion–75 billion CFUs of probiotics, along with prebiotics and various digestive enzymes (check labels to ensure activity at numerous pH levels)
  • 1 gram fish oil (about 550 mg EPA, 450 mg DHA)

Take just before a meal. High-dose probiotics may cause loose stools. Digestive enzymes can initially cause gas.

Try: American Health Enzyme Probiotic Complex, Enzymedica Digest Spectrum

Eye health

  • fish oil
  • lutein
  • zeaxanthin

Recent studies show consuming more omega-3s can significantly reduce risks for developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness in Americans over age 50. Antioxidant carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin protect the retina by filtering out harmful blue light from the sun, lowering risks for AMD and cataracts.

Doses:

  • About 1 gram fish oil (150 mg EPA, 800 mg DHA)
  • 20 mg lutein
  • 4 mg zeaxanthin

Try: Nordic Naturals Ultimate DHA Eye

Heart health

  • coenzyme Q10
  • fish oil
  • red yeast rice

Triglyceride-reducing omega-3s and red yeast rice extract (which may help lower bad [LDL] cholesterol) deliver a double punch against heart disease risk factors. In a 2008 study, the combo worked as well as prescription statin drugs to reduce LDL cholesterol—and lowered triglycerides, too. Red yeast rice, a naturally occurring statin, uses some of the body’s own heart health–supporting coQ10, as do statin drugs, so most healthcare providers recommend supplementing to be sure you’re getting enough.

Doses:

  • about 1 gram fish oil (650 mg EPA, 450 mg DHA)
  • 1,200–1,800 mg red yeast rice extract
  • up to 200 mg coQ10

Take with a meal. Taking red yeast rice (or statin drugs) may elevate liver enzymes; consider having your doctor test liver function every three months during use.

Try: Carlson CoQ10 with Fish Oil

Joint health

  • fish oil
  • glucosamine sulfate

Osteoarthritis ranks as the fifth leading cause of disability in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although research on glucosamine for joint health has been mixed, a recent study found combining glucosamine with omega-3s reduced pain better than glucosamine alone.

Doses:

  • 1,500 mg glucosamine sulfate
  • up to 1 gram omega-3 fatty acids (540 mg EPA, 380 mg DHA)

Try: Nordic Naturals Omega Joint Xtra