Walk into any drugstore and you'll quickly see why the supplement industry is worth around $37 billion annually in the US alone: there are pills to make you sleep better, poop better, relax better, focus better, beat cancer, age better, be better.
The idea of natural health boosters is inherently appealing. "In medicine, we are primarily concerned with illness," says Dr. Steven Lamm, professor of medicine and the medical director of NYU Langone's Preston Robert Tisch Center for Men's Health. "But the public has a very strong desire to promote wellness. This has created a kind of void -- and things like vitamins and supplements have rushed to fill it."
Unfortunately for those seeking to fill the void (who isn't?), there's a near consensus among medical professionals: vitamins and supplements are usually a waste of money. Usually! There are some vitamins and supplements that do provide real health benefits when taken as a regimen, especially for specific populations with particular dietary needs, like vegans or the elderly. For the rest of you, you probably only need these four.