Should You Be Taking Dietary Supplements?

Are you wondering if you should be taking dietary supplements?

According to News In Health, more than half of all Americans take at least one dietary supplement per day. Because nutritional supplements are regulated as foods rather than drugs, the FDA does not regulate the effects of dietary supplements on the body, or their ingredients. This what you need to know before you start taking herbs and vitamins.

What You Need to Know About Dietary Supplements

Because Immune Tree takes concern in your health, we’ve shared the FDA’s most common questions and answers regarding dietary supplements. According to the FDA:

Q. What are dietary supplements?
A. Dietary supplements include vitamins, minerals, and other less familiar substances — such as herbals, botanicals, amino acids, and enzymes (see box at right). Dietary supplements are also marketed in forms such as tablets, capsules, softgels, and gelcaps. While some dietary supplements are fairly well understood, others need further study.

Q. What are the benefits of dietary supplements?

A. Some supplements may help to assure that you get an adequate dietary intake of essential nutrients. However, supplements should not replace the variety of foods that are important to a healthful diet — so, be sure you eat a variety of foods as well.

Unlike drugs, supplements are not intended to treat, diagnose, prevent, or cure diseases. That means supplements should not make claims, such as “reduces arthritic pain” or “treats heart disease.” Claims like these can only legitimately be made for drugs, not dietary supplements.

Q. Are there any risks in taking supplements?

A. Yes. Many supplements contain active ingredients that have strong biological effects in the body. This could make them unsafe in some situations and hurt or complicate your health. For example, the following actions could lead to harmful — even life-threatening — consequences.

Using supplements with medications (whether prescription or over-the-counter)
Substituting supplements for prescription medicines
Taking too much of some supplements, such as vitamin A, vitamin D, and iron
Some supplements can also have unwanted effects before, during, and after surgery. So, be sure to inform your health-care provider, including your pharmacist, about any supplements you are taking — especially before surgery.

Q. Who’s responsible for the safety of dietary supplements?

A. Dietary supplements are not approved by the government for safety and effectiveness before they are marketed. If the dietary supplement contains a NEW ingredient, that ingredient will be reviewed by FDA (not approved) prior to marketing — but only for safety, not effectiveness.

The manufacturers and distributors of dietary supplements are responsible for making sure their products are safe BEFORE they go to market. Manufacturers are required to produce dietary supplements to minimum quality standards and ensure that they do not contain contaminants or impurities, and are accurately labeled.

Manufacturers are required to report all serious dietary supplement related adverse events or illnesses to FDA as of December 2007.

FDA can take dietary supplements off the market if they are found to be unsafe, adulterated, or if the claims on the products are false and misleading.

Q. What should I do if I have a reaction to a dietary supplement?

A. You, your health-care provider, or anyone else should report a serious problem from the use of any dietary supplement directly to FDA’s MedWatch Program at:

(toll-free phone number)