Five Important Points about Dietary Supplements


In an effort to stay healthy and be well, many people take dietary supplements. There’s evidence that dietary supplements help in treating and preventing nutrition deficiencies; however, there’s much we don’t know about herbal medicine and dietary supplements claiming to be “natural products,” capable of treating and preventing diseases.

Five Important Points about Dietary Supplements

Dietary supplements are available in a variety of forms.  According to the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, dietary supplements are products containing one or more dietary ingredients, which include minerals, vitamins, amino acids, herbs, or other botanicals, and certain other substances, or their forms.

Dietary supplements are labeled as dietary supplements and are intended to supplement the diet, according to regulations. They are also intended to be taken by mouth, in the form of a tablet, powder, capsule, liquid, gelcap, or softgel.

One important point to consider when taking dietary supplements is the possibility of interactions. Some dietary supplements interact with prescribed or over-the-counter medication or other dietary supplements. For example, research shows that St. John’s wort interacts with many medications in such a way to interfere with their intended effect, including birth control pills, antidepressants, and antiretrovirals used to care for HIV.

Another important point to consider about dietary supplements is their potential for contamination. Dietary supplements marked for sexual health, including erectile dysfunction, weight loss, bodybuilding, and athletic performance have been found to contain hidden compounds and prescription drugs.

An additional important point to consider about dietary supplements is product labels. Products labeled as “natural” are not necessarily “safe.” For instance, natural herbs, like kava and comfrey can cause severe harm to the liver. In addition, a product labeled “verified,” “certified,” or “standardized” does not guarantee the product’s reliability or quality.

Final Important Considerations

Another important point to consider about supplements is your responsibility to be an informed consumer.

Marketing standards for supplements are very different from the standards for drugs. Supplement manufacturers do not have to give evidence to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that their product is safe or even works.

It is the consumer’s responsibility to find scientific evidence and decide if the dietary supplement they choose works and is safe for consumption.

Finally, talk to a healthcare professional about any additional health products, dietary supplements, and practices you use to stay healthy. In managing your health, you can ensure a coördinated effort and safe care with the support of your family doctor or healthcare provider.

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George Zapo, CPH
George Zapo, CPH is certified in Public Health Promotion & Education. George focuses on writing informative articles promoting healthy behavior and lifestyles. Read more of George's articles at his website: