5 Popular Supplements Scrutinized

There are a lot of unknowns about some of the most used supplements

By Michael Smith, MD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Cynthia Haines, MD

When it comes to supplements, "buyer beware" only goes so far these days. Patients have been interested in supplements for years, but doctors have been slow to recommend them. Don't be too hard on doctors. It's ingrained in us to look for strong evidence that a treatment works without doing harm. That's a good thing.

But as more research comes out, more doctors are getting on board. But we still know very little about supplement effectiveness, and what we do know doesn't look all that great.

So, if you're going to take supplements, which ones are most likely to give you the effect that you're looking for without causing you harm?

Here's a summary of what we do -- and don't -- know about five of the most popular supplements based on current research.

Glucosamine and Chondroitin

These two supplements -- both components of natural joint cartilage -- have been fairly well-studied in the treatment of osteoarthritis -- also called degenerative arthritis.

Pros:

  • It may improve pain, mobility, and quality of life for people suffering from osteoarthritis.
  • These supplements may slow progression of osteoarthritis by controlling inflammation. They are believed to stimulate the growth of cartilage cells which have been broken down in this arthritis. Chondroitin may also provide cartilage with strength and resilience.
  • They are generally safe.