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Dietary supplements

Dietary supplements

Dietary supplements include vitamins, minerals, and other less familiar substances — such as herbals, botanicals, amino acids, enzymes, and animal extracts.

Dietary supplements are also marketed in forms such as tablets, capsules, softgels, and gelcaps. While some dietary supplements are well understood and established, others need further study.

Benefits of dietary supplements

Some supplements can help assure that you get an adequate dietary intake of essential nutrients; others may help you reduce the risk of disease. 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.

Risks of taking supplements 

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.

  • Combining supplements
  • 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.

Safety of dietary supplements

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


How to find out more about dietary supplements?

If you want to know more about the product you are taking, check with the manufacturer or distributor about:

  • Information to support the claims of the product
  • Information on the safety and effectiveness of the ingredients in the product
  • Any reports of adverse effects or events from consumers using the product.


Choosing appropriate dietary supplements

Although the benefits of some dietary supplements have been documented, the claims of others may be unproven. If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

Be a savvy supplement user. Here's how:

  • Watch out for false statements like:
  • A quick and effective "cure-all"
  • Can treat or cure diseases
  • "Totally safe" or has "no side effects"
  • Be aware that the term natural doesn't always mean safe.
  • Don't assume that even if a product may not help you, at least it won't hurt you.
  • When searching for supplements on the Web, use the sites of respected organizations, rather than doing blind searches.
  • Ask your health-care provider for help in distinguishing between reliable and questionable information.
  • Always remember - safety first!



Prepared and edited by: Dr. Ahmad Saleh


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Source :

U.S. Food and Drug Administration

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