Vitamins and supplements

Do vitamin D, zinc, and other supplements help prevent COVID-19 or hasten healing?

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Certain vitamins and supplements have long been promoted as having benefits for the immune system, which has led some to believe they may have similar effects on COVID-19 — and some doctors have been prescribing them. But so far, study results have not been encouraging.

Harvard Health Ad Watch: Mitochondria do a lot for you — what can you do for them?

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Mitochondria are the power stations in our cells that convert nutrients into energy, and research suggests that they play a key role in aging and immune function. Ads for a line of supplements claim that the product renews or replenishes mitochondria –– but is there any scientific proof of this?

Omega-3 fatty acids and the heart: New evidence, more questions

Omega-3 fatty acids from fish and fish oil have been recommended by the American Heart Association for the past 20 years to reduce cardiovascular events in people who already have cardiovascular disease. But the results of studies of omega-3 supplements have been mixed, leaving both doctors and patients still wondering what to do.

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.