December 9th, 2008
12:04 PM ET
As a new feature of CNNhealth.com, our team of expert doctors will answer readers' questions. Here's a question for Dr. Gupta.
Question asked by J. Mizer, San Diego, California
"As part of CNN's programming, Dr. Gupta named the one daily vitamin supplement he takes, however, I can't remember what it was. Can you please advise?"
First off, thanks for tuning in to CNN! Your question is one I get often — the dilemma of whether to take a daily supplement can be confusing. The truth of it is Americans spend billions of dollars a year on a products that have no scientific proof they work.
In fact, 20 percent of Americans take some kind of an herbal supplement, but in about 2/3 of those cases the supplement isn’t clinically proven to provide benefit.
To answer your initial question, the one supplement I take everyday is fish-oil/omega 3. I have a family history of heart disease and there is evidence fish-oil, can help reduce my risk. But this doesn’t mean, fish-oil is the only supplement that has benefits.
Studies show calcium and vitamin D supplements can reduce your risk for osteoporosis. And folic acid supplements are beneficial for expecting mothers as they help prevent birth defects.
Here are a couple best-selling herbal supplements that studies have proved have no benefit. Gingko biloba does not help your improve your memory or to ward of Alzheimer’s disease. Studies say echinacea does not help fight off a cold and there is no evidence that St. John’s Wart works to treat depression.
I know it is harder than it sounds but the best way to get nutrients is through a well balanced diet. Loading up on lots of vegetables, fish and leafy greens will provide you with a wide range of essential vitamins to keep your immune system up and your brain working at full speed.
If you do chose to go with any type of vitamin or supplement, be sure to tell your doctor about it. Some herbal supplements can also cause harmful drug interactions with pharmaceutical drugs you might also be taking.
About this blog
Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.