What is a dietary supplement?
A dietary supplement is any product that contains one or more dietary ingredients such as a vitamin, mineral, herb or other ingredient used to supplement one’s diet. They are not food additives or drugs.
Are dietary supplements regulated by the FDA?
Yes, they are regulated. However, dietary supplements are not regulated in the way prescription or over-the-counter drugs are. Dietary supplements are foods and not drugs. The FDA has the power to ensure products are safe and labeled accurately. A manufacturer must notify the FDA of all label claims and ensure that they can be substantiated before it can be sold.
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 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 and do 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 healthy lifestyle. Research shows that dietary supplements are far safer to the consumer than foods.
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 forms of foods while balancing calorie intake with energy expenditure. Nutrient-dense foods contain essential vitamins and minerals, and also 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?
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 Web site 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. 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're taking.
How do I know I'm 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 you're getting a good 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' seal must be manufactured properly, contain the ingredients listed on the label, and not include any harmful contaminants.
What should I do if I think a dietary supplement is causing side effects?
Discontinue consuming the supplement and report any side effects to your doctor as soon as possible.