Vitamins of the Stars: Do They Work?

Madonna reportedly practices three hours of yoga a day, Gwyneth Paltrow swears by a macrobiotic diet consisting of mostly grains and uncooked vegetables and now Hilary Swank says she pops nearly 45 pills a day to maintain her celebrity physique.

During a recent interview with W Magazine, Swank ran through her supplement regimen, which includes not only tablets but also regular vitamin injections.

"This is my Aloe C, which I dissolve in water," Swank told the magazine, reportedly wielding a large orange pill. "Here's my flax. This one's for my immune system, and this one is my BrainWave. It's great, like if I have a lot of lines to memorize."

Swank is known for her grueling exercise regimen, which includes weight lifting, hiking and martial arts. She has packed on and lost muscle at will for movie roles like her Oscar-winning part in "Million Dollar Baby."

And on the red carpet last week at the premiere of her new film, "P.S. I Love You," the 33-year-old actress looked svelte and glowing in a strapless black dress.

Swank credits her fitness regimen as "one of the secrets to her success," according to W Magazine. But are such extreme measures — pills, potions and even injections — really all that healthy?

Swank insists they are.

"I just took my most important ones, which are my Oz Garcia Longevity Pak," she told W Magazine, describing a, $80-a-month bright-green bottle that includes "brain capsules" and "hormone capsules," among other pills.

"Oz has changed my life," she added. "The Longevity Pak is so awesome."

Garcia, a Manhattan-based self-described "life extension specialist" and often dubbed "nutritionist to the stars," says supplements are a necessity in today's high-pressure world, especially for his celebrity clients.

"She's going from city to city and on and off planes," Garcia told ABC News of Swank, whom he has treated for years and whom he helped get in shape to play a female boxer in 2004. "We've got tremendous demands and obligations. So I work with my clients to teach them how to work in an almost athletic lifestyle."

"It's like an Olympic athlete in training."

Garcia, who talks about his clients as if they are delicately balanced engineering projects, says the purpose of his treatment is "stretching out the usable life of your body."

"It's not so much somebody taking 45 pills at once," Garcia told ABC News. "They rotate through any amount of nutrients … to create a balance that we think is critical to maintain that biological state of excellence."

Vitamin Claims Tough to Swallow

But not all experts agree that people should rely on pills and potions to prolong their life.

Marlene Schwartz, deputy director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, told ABC News there were few health risks to taking supplements, but, for already healthy people, not that many benefits.

"Many vitamins simply aren't absorbed by the body when they are taken in excess and they pass through the system," Schwartz said. "It is probably a waste of effort and money."

Swank isn't the only Hollywood star to go to extremes to stay in shape. Other examples include Jessica Simpson's reported 2.5-hour-a-day workouts to fit into her Daisy Dukes for 2005's "The Dukes of Hazzard," and former model Christie Brinkley's alleged liquid diet for emergency slim-downs.

But while stars have access to teams of doctors, dietitians and trainers, regular people mostly manage their food intake alone. And that, say experts, is where public examples like Swank can be deceptive.

"Their bodies are their full-time job," Sharon Akabas, the associate director of the Institute for Human Nutrition at Columbia University, said of celebrities like Swank and Simpson. "Most people don't have that time, and then what they end up doing is taking different pieces of the regimen in the hope that they can achieve what she has."

"What these people really sell is hope," Akabas continued. "They hook people in that they'll lose weight. — But almost no one can maintain these regimens."

Rudd Center's Schwartz agreed.

"There are patients with eating disorders who aren't eating enough and then take vitamins to make themselves feel like they aren't putting themselves in danger," Schwartz said. "My biggest concern with this story is that if Hilary Swank is doing this … it may give some young women the impression that they don't have to eat a balanced and adequate diet."

But Garcia, who emphasized that Swank's supplements are just that — a supplement to an already-balanced diet — said such concerns were misplaced.

"From my perspective it's interesting that people don't question the fact that many stars have really bad practices," he said. "They eat tons of fast food, they smoke, they drink — and no one comes out and says, 'whoa, what's that all about?'"

He added, "What we're interested in is just a really good state of health."

As for Swank, it seems her pills pose a potential health hazard, though not in the way one might expect.

"I shoved them right in my mouth right before I met you, which I actually shouldn't do," Swank told W Magazine of her favored Longevity Pak. "Because I choked on my vitamins once before."