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It comes as no surprise that the majority of Americans use or have used a dietary supplement. According to the National Institute of Health, more than half of all Americans take one or more nutritional supplements daily or on occasion. Yet despite their popularity, not all dietary supplements are healthy or needed. Here’s what you need to know before you pop a “healthy” pill.


Dietary Supplements

As defined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), dietary supplements contain a “dietary ingredient,” which can include vitamins,  amino acids, minerals, and herbs or botanicals, as well as additional ingredients that can be used to enhance the diet. These supplements are readily available in stores as well as online and typically come in the form of a pill, liquid, or powder. While there are many reasons why you can use dietary supplements, most use them as a means to take essential nutrients, boost energy, sleep better, or improve medical concerns.


Supplement Risks

While supplements can be beneficial, there are many concerns you should take into account before you incorporate them into your diet. Many consumers may think they do not need to worry about the safety of the supplements they are taking, but that’s far from the truth. A significant concern that is often overlooked is that the FDA does not regulate dietary supplements. The FDA is not entitled to review nutritional supplement products for safety and effectiveness before they are marketed. With that being said, supplement companies are under no obligation to produce safe and effective supplements. Dietary supplements do not have to be shown effective, do not have to be proven safe, and do not even need to contain the supplement they market but yet they can be sold.

Due to the lack of regulation, supplements are often mislabeled and can falsely advertise their benefits. While the FDA does prohibit supplements from being marketed to treat, diagnose, prevent, or cure diseases – supplement companies can still make claims that are misleading.


What to Consider

Using supplements can be helpful, but before deciding whether to take a supplement, talk to your healthcare provider. They can help you achieve a balance between the foods and nutrients you need. It is vital to note that supplements can have adverse effects on medications you are already taking. Furthermore, taking the wrong supplement in the wrong circumstance can lead to significant health concerns. Before purchasing a new supplement or vitamin, do your research and consult your doctor, pharmacist, or dietitian to determine whether it’s the best choice for you.


Mitra Rangarajan is one of the few people in the world who is cross-trained and certified in three interrelated, interconnected and intertwined disciplines which are: Nutrition, Diabetes Management, and Clinical Medicine/GI. Read more of Mitra’s GI Nutrition articles here!