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"Natural" Dietary Supplements

"Lose 10 pounds in just 3 days; money-back guarantee! This natural dietary supplement is guaranteed to melt fat, boost energy, and make you thin."

Surely you've seen similar advertisements of "miracle" supplements that will make you thinner, more muscular, smarter, or super-energized. Just call a toll-free number, give them your credit card information, and they'll send you a 30-day supply.

But let's get real. Do you believe everything you hear? How do you know if a dietary supplement really works -- or if it's completely bogus? Are supplements safe or can they make you ill? After all, your doctor does not prescribe them. And while state and federal agencies -- like the FDA or the Federal Trade Commission -- can control what health benefits manufactures can claim on supplement labels and web sites, supplements are not regulated as strictly as pharmaceutical drugs. This means that supplements do not have to be proven safe or effective before hitting the shelves. However, if a supplement proves to be unsafe, the FDA, can warn consumers; or in some cases, even pull the supplement off the shelves.

Before you call that toll-free phone number, let's dig deeper into the mystery surrounding natural dietary supplements. If you're well informed, you'll understand how to protect yourself from potentially harmful products, and can better choose safe, effective treatments.

What Are Natural Dietary Supplements?

When you were young, the only dietary supplement you most likely took was a vitamin/mineral supplement. Perhaps you remember taking a fruity-flavored vitamin each day.

Today in the United States, dietary supplements are a big business. They consist of a wide range of products, including multivitamins, minerals, amino acids, and herbs. You can get supplements in a variety of forms, from capsules, pills, and gel tabs, to liquids, tinctures, extracts, and powders. You can buy them at your local supermarket or drugstore -- even on the Internet.

And although some come from natural sources, like plants, others are man made.

Can Dietary Supplements Harm My Health?

The problem is, while dietary supplements are called "natural," many have negative effect on the body. But many people believe that "natural" means completely safe, and that's far from the truth. Many natural products can affect your body in ways that can potentially lead to serious illness, even death.

Androstenedione. A steroid precursor used by St. Louis Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire and others, claims to enhance athletic performance and boost testosterone levels. The FDA and many amateur and professional athletic organizations have banned androstenedione. But the supplement is still for sale through the Internet and other countries and many athletes use it, putting their health at risk.

Not only does androstenedione boost the concentration of estrogen (a female hormone), which can lead to breast development and impotence in men, it may cause abnormal periods, deepening of the voice and increased facial hair in women. It can also lead to serious liver disease and blood clots.

WebMD Medical Reference

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