November 13th, 2008
11:47 AM ET

Experts weigh in on which vitamins to toss back or toss out

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/HEALTH/diet.fitness/11/13/ep.vitamin.primer/vitamin.comp.4way.jpg caption="Our experts (clockwise from top left): Dr. Melina Jampolis, Dr. Andrew Weil, Dr. Walter Willett, Dr. Christiane Northrup"]
Elizabeth Cohen
CNN Medical Correspondent

Americans love to take their vitamins. More than 150 million Americans take dietary supplements according to the Council for Responsible Nutrition, a supplement industry trade group.

But what should you do? Walk through the vitamin aisle of any grocery store, and you're hit by a staggering array of options. From vitamin A to glucosamine to milk thistle (what is that, anyway?) to whey protein, it's hard to decide what to take.

That's why this week the Empowered Patient asked four experts - all medical doctors - what supplements they take every day. Their lists may surprise you - they all take at least two supplements - some take three or four or more.

Choosing a daily vitamin regimen is especially daunting in light of two new studies out this week. In the largest and longest study of its kind, researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, found that vitamins C and E do nothing to protect against heart disease in men. The study, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, also found that vitamin E even appeared to raise the risk of bleeding strokes, which, while rare, are often the most deadly. Other research on women and vitamins is also discouraging.

A study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute this week found that a daily regimen of vitamin D and calcium did not offer any protection against invasive breast cancer.

With those studies in mind, here's what our panel of experts takes every day.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Health Care • Medical News
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. Joanne, Syracuse, NY

    The medical community is now recognizing the value of vitamins. For example, medication to halt and prevent further damage of osteoporosis require a vitamin D additive. This recognition and holistic view in medicine is one of the truly great new medical advances.

    The best course of action is to ask your personal physician which supplements would benefit your health.

    November 17, 2008 at 9:42 am |
  2. Roseanna

    I'm not convinced that most medical doctors have the nutritional training to opine on the value of vitamins. I'd prefer to see someone with a similar background to Jean Carper or if we need an MD to make us feel secure maybe Andrew Weil.

    November 13, 2008 at 7:57 pm |
  3. Maria

    Happy Evening Elizabeth,
    Vitamin D along with Soya beans probably the most promising nutritional supplement for breast cancer prevention. Clinical studies showed some controversial results of different vitamins, this could be due to gender difference or experimental design issue. I agree with expert’s decision, not to limit ourselves to single study data.

    November 13, 2008 at 5:13 pm |
  4. Cindy

    I don't take any vitamins or anything else. I never have. And I am extremely healthy and haven't been sick in years. I think it all boils down to how well you take care of yourself, eating very healthy and getting enough exercise. I don't think we should always turn to medicines to keep us healthy. Man made pills always have side effects that hurt your body. If you take care of yourself, eat right, sleep right and exercise you don't need these things.


    November 13, 2008 at 5:10 pm |
  5. Fay, CA

    It's hard to know what to do when there are so many conflicting studies on the benefits/risks of taking certain vitamins–I think I'll just stick with a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement and try to eat as much healthy foods as possible–it's not always easy to do, but it is worth it in the long run.

    November 13, 2008 at 5:10 pm |