What is a dietary supplement?
A dietary supplement is a product that contains one or more dietary ingredients such as a vitamin, mineral, herb or other ingredient and is used to supplement one’s diet. They are not food additives or drugs.
What are the benefits of dietary supplements?
If you consume a balanced daily diet, you should be able to get all the nutrients you need. Taking supplements can provide the body with additional nutrients when your diet is lacking or when certain health conditions cause you to develop an insufficiency or deficiency. Whether taking a multivitamin, herb or specialty product, people can live healthier lives by supplementing their diets.
Are dietary supplements safe?
Dietary supplements are used as a way to complement inadequate diets and help consumers maintain a balanced, healthy lifestyle. Research shows that dietary supplements are far safer to the consumer than foods.
Are dietary supplements regulated by the FDA?
Yes, they are regulated by the FDA. However, dietary supplements are not regulated in the same way that prescription or over-the-counter drugs are. Dietary supplements are foods, not drugs. The FDA has the power to ensure products are safe and labeled accurately. A manufacturer must notify the FDA of all labels claims and make sure that they can be substantiated before the product is sold.
How do I know that I am getting a quality supplement?
Manufacturers are required to follow "good manufacturing practices" (GMPs), which means their supplements have to meet certain quality standards. To ensure that you are getting a quality product, look for a seal of approval from an organization that tests supplements such as the U.S. Pharmacopeia, ConsumerLab or NSF International. Products that carry these organizations' seals must be manufactured properly, contain the ingredients listed on the label, and cannot include any harmful contaminants.
Can’t I can get all the vitamins and minerals needed from the food that I eat?
There is insufficient evidence to either recommend for or against the use of multivitamin/mineral supplements for the prevention of chronic diseases. It is recommended that you get all the vitamins/minerals you need by eating nutrient-dense foods while balancing calorie intake with energy expenditure. Nutrient-dense foods contain essential vitamins and minerals as well as fiber and other naturally occurring substances that may have positive health effects. For more information, see the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Should I check with my physician before taking a dietary supplement?
Yes, you should always check with your physician, healthcare provider or pharmacist before purchasing or taking any supplement. Especially, if you are pregnant, nursing a baby or have a chronic medical condition, such as diabetes, hypertension or heart disease. Remember, ingredients in dietary supplements are not tested or approved by the FDA. The FDA regulates label claims for dietary supplements. For more information on the FDA's role in Dietary Supplement Regulation, visit the FDA's website regarding Dietary Supplements.
What questions should I ask a health professional about taking dietary supplements?
Ask whether you need the supplement based on your current diet and health status. Also, ask what benefits and risks the supplement can have, how much to take and for how long. Be sure they have all your information and know exactly which supplements and medicines you are taking.
What should I do if I think a dietary supplement is causing side effects?
Immediately discontinue use of the supplement and report any side effects to your doctor as soon as possible.