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FDA 101: Dietary Supplements

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Are Supplements Safe? continued...

Some dietary supplements have been shown to be beneficial for certain health conditions. For example, the use of folic acid supplements by women of childbearing age who may become pregnant reduces the risk of some birth defects.

Another example is the crystalline form of vitamin B12, which is beneficial in people over age 50 who often have a reduced ability to absorb naturally occurring vitamin B12. But further study is needed for some other dietary supplements.

Some supplements have had to be recalled because of proven or potential harmful effects. Reasons for these recalls include

  • microbiological, pesticide, and heavy metal contamination
  • absence of a dietary ingredient claimed to be in the product
  • the presence of more or less than the amount of the dietary ingredient claimed on the label

In addition, unscrupulous manufacturers have tried to sell bogus products that should not be on the market at all.
Before taking a dietary supplement, make sure that the supplement is safe for you and appropriate for the intended purpose.

Be a Safe and Informed Consumer

  • Let your health care professional advise you on sorting reliable information from questionable information.
  • Contact the manufacturer for information about the product you intend to use.
  • Be aware that some supplement ingredients, including nutrients and plant components, can be toxic. Also, some ingredients and products can be harmful when consumed in high amounts, when taken for a long time, or when used in combination with certain other drugs, substances, or foods.
  • Do not self-diagnose any health condition. Work with health care professionals to determine how best to achieve optimal health.
  • Do not substitute a dietary supplement for a prescription medicine or therapy, or for the variety of foods important to a healthful diet.
  • Do not assume that the term "natural" in relation to a product ensures that the product is wholesome or safe.
  • Be wary of hype and headlines. Sound health advice is generally based upon research over time, not a single study.
  • Learn to spot false claims. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.