Taylor Hooton Foundation > Hoot’s Corner > General > Do your research before taking dietary supplements
September 17, 2015
Do your research before taking dietary supplements

More than half of Americans use dietary supplements, including multivitamins and botanical supplements, in tablet, capsule, liquid and powder form, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While dietary supplements — products intended to add further nutritional value to the diet — might seem like a “natural” solution to health protection, you should make sure you use them safely and appropriately.

Use supplements wisely. Before you decide to take a supplement for health benefits, visit a reputable source of information, such as the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements (ods.od.nih.gov) orConsumerLab.com. It’s best to consult your health-care provider prior to taking supplements, especially if you are pregnant, nursing or have a medical condition, such as diabetes, hypertension or heart disease.

Certain supplements can interfere with prescribed or over-the-counter drugs. To best ensure that you’re buying supplements that meet safety standards, look for those with a third-party safety verification, such as NSF or U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP), which certifies the product has voluntarily met standards for identity, potency and purity. Most importantly, keep in mind that supplements are intended to do just that — supplement one’s diet, not try to make up for a poor one.

How are they regulated? Some supplements, such as vitamin C tablets, might seem harmless, while others might promote an array of benefits simply too good to be true, from weight loss to hair growth. Unlike prescription medications, supplements can be marketed without documentation of scientific evidence or FDA approval. Thus, there can be a lack of data supporting the supplement’s use, safety or dosage.

Quality issues have been noted. Some supplements don’t even contain the ingredients they claim on the label. A recent investigation requested by the New York Attorney General’s office of herbal supplements sold at major retailers found that only 21 percent of products contained actual material from the plants advertised on the label.

Safety measures for supplements do exist. The FDA’s Dietary Supplement and Nonprescription Drug Consumer Protection Act requires manufacturers to report adverse events related to their products; and current Good Manufacturing Practices help ensure quality-control measures during manufacturing and distribution.

McKenzie Hall is a writer for Environmental Nutrition, an independent newsletter written by nutrition experts. Details: www.environmentalnutrition.com