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Supplement Safety

The FDA regulates dietary supplements like foods instead of medications. Unlike drug manufacturers, the makers of supplements don’t have to show their products are safe or effective before they can sell them. But the FDA can take one off the market if it proves that it’s unsafe.

The bottom line: Do your research and be careful when you’re shopping for new products. Other ways to stay safe:

  • If you eat a balanced diet rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, look for a multivitamin with no more than 100% of the daily value of most vitamins and minerals.
  • Although these nutrients are essential to our bodies, some can be harmful in high doses. It’s especially important to avoid getting too much of vitamins A, D, E, and K, because these build up in your body and can become toxic.

Who Should Avoid Supplements and Vitamins?

Supplements are not a good idea for people with some kinds of health conditions. They also can keep some medications from working as well as they should. Always talk with your doctor before you add any to your diet. People who should avoid certain types include:

  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women, because some supplements can be dangerous to the baby. A daily prenatal vitamin has the right types and amounts of nutrients for these women.
  • People who take heart medications, diuretics, blood thinners, aspirin, drugs that turn down the immune system, and steroids. With any type of drug, there’s always a chance that it won’t mix well with a supplement, but the problems can be especially severe with these drugs.
  • People who are going to have surgery, because some products may lead to bleeding and other dangerous complications.
  • People who’ve had cancer or are getting treated for it. Some supplements could help cancer cells grow or make treatments for the disease less effective.

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