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Dietary Supplements: Industry Views continued...

"Some of these ingredients [in the report] have been flagged by the FDA years ago," Shao says. But he also acknowledges that despite this, the ingredients are still readily available.

Like Consumer Reports, he says more enforcement power is needed by the FDA.

Another expert took exception to some parts of the report, saying some of the ingredients Consumer Reports calls dangerous are not when used appropriately. But he agrees with other points. "I agree some should be avoided," says Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of the American Botanical Council, a nonprofit research and education organization in Austin, Texas. On his list: coltsfoot, comfrey, and yohimbe.

Consumers should always discuss supplement use with their health care provider, Blumenthal says. His organization favors stronger regulations, including the requirement to report adverse events, he says.

Dietary Supplements: How to Play It Safe

In the report, Consumer Reports also identifies 11 supplements "to consider." On that list: calcium, cranberry, fish oil, glucosamine sulfate, lactase, lactobacillus, psyllium, pygeum, SAMe, St. John's wort, and vitamin D.

For safer supplement use, Metcalf says, consumers can beware of products that have been linked with the most problems -- those for weight loss, sexual enhancement, and body building.

A product that has a "USP Verified" mark means the manufacturer has asked the U.S. Pharmacopeia, a nonprofit standards-setting authority, to verify the quality, purity, and potency of its raw ingredients or the finished product.

Consumers can also check out alerts and advisories regarding dietary supplements on the web sites of the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements and the FDA.

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