Dietary Supplements: What Are They?

Dietary supplements are vitamins, minerals, herbs, enzymes and many other products. They can come as tablets, capsules, powders, drinks, and energy bars. Supplements do not have to go through the same testing that drugs do and are more readily available, as most of them are sold as over-the-counter products. Also, unlike drugs, supplements are not intended to treat, diagnose, prevent, or cure diseases and cannot make claims such as treating diabetes or curing arthritis pain.

People use dietary supplements for a variety of purposes. Some look to make up for medical conditions or eating habits that limit the amount of essential vitamins and nutrients the body has and uses. A couple of common examples are calcium and vitamin D for keeping bones strong and pregnant women taking folic acid to prevent certain birth defects in their babies. Other people use supplements to boost energy or to get a good night’s sleep.

Common Supplements:

  • Acidophilus for digestion
  • Echinacea for colds
  • Fiber for constipation
  • Ginger for stomach upset
  • Glucosamine for joint pain
  • Melatonin for sleep
  • Vitamins (A-E) for low levels and various uses

It is recommended that a healthcare professional be consulted before using a dietary supplement because of their possible effects on the body and interactions with medications and other supplements. Since there are so many different types of supplements offered, it may be overwhelming and confusing when trying to decide what will be most beneficial. Monitoring and research is important when considering a supplement.

Supplements are not regulated like drugs. They can be marketed and sold without the approval of the government as long as they meet minimum safety standards ensured by the manufacturer. Effectiveness is not a requirement for supplements as it is for drugs. The FDA does not begin to monitor a supplement until it enters the market. They watch for any adverse effects and risks that may pose a threat to consumers. Also, the FTC makes sure the claims on the product are not false or misleading.Dietary Supplements

The most important things to do when thinking about taking a supplement are to be informed, ask questions, and be aware of false claims.


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