Vitamins and supplements

Harvard Health Ad Watch: Are nutritional drinks actually good for you?

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

If you believe ads for nutritional supplement drinks, you might think you can improve your health by drinking them. But for most people, their value is questionable and their cost adds up.

Harvard Health Ad Watch: When marketing puts your health at risk

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Can health marketing be harmful? Watch out for health ads that make misleading or even dangerous claims that an unproven product or treatment is better than a proven one.

Should you use probiotics for your vagina?

Probiotics are being promoted as a way for women to improve vaginal health, but unlike with the gut and digestion, there is almost no evidence for any benefit.

Kratom: Fear-worthy foliage or beneficial botanical?

Kratom has been used for hundreds of years for various conditions, and today many people are using it to treat chronic pain and mitigate opioid withdrawal symptoms. But there is no control or regulation of the product, and it can have serious side effects.

FDA curbs unfounded memory supplement claims

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Considering memory supplements? Think again. In the US, prescription medicines are rigorously tested, but supplements are not and manufacturers can make claims that may or may not be true. But even supplement makers must follow certain rules, and recently the FDA announced a plan to revamp its regulation of dietary supplements.

What’s in your supplements?

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Millions of Americans take some kind of supplement, but because supplements are not regulated like prescription drugs are, taking one is not always safe. Researchers have found many instances of hidden ingredients and inaccurate quantities listed on the label.

Chondroitin and melanoma: How worried should you be?

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Research in mice found that the supplement chondroitin sulfate led to the growth of melanoma cells, and though this does not mean it will do the same in people, there isn’t much evidence to support taking chondroitin anyway.

What patients — and doctors — need to know about vitamins and supplements

While certain groups of people, and those who have certain conditions, can benefit from taking vitamins or supplements, most people will do better obtaining the nutrients they need from eating a health, balanced diet.

Low vitamin D tied to aggressive prostate cancer

Prostate cancer tends to be more aggressive in men with low levels of vitamin D. Among African American men, low vitamin D is also linked to a higher risk of developing prostate cancer.

Selenium, vitamin E supplements increase prostate cancer risk

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Former Executive Editor, Harvard Health

New results from a major clinical trial called SELECT show that taking selenium or vitamin E can increase the odds of developing prostate cancer. Bottom line: men shouldn’t take selenium or vitamin E as a way to prevent prostate cancer, or anything else for that matter.