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Be Smart about Dietary Supplements

Updated on November 13, 2015

How Do Supplements Fit into Your Total Diet?

Dietary supplements are not meant to replace a balanced diet including a variety of foods from the major food groups. Excessive amounts of certain nutrients can cause problems for some individuals. Some supplements contain active ingredients that have strong biological effects and their safety is not always assured in all users.

Read the Supplement Label

Supplements come in different forms including tablets, capsules, powders, energy bars or drinks. One way to know if a product is a dietary supplements if to look at the label on the product. These are the most important things you should look for on the supplement bottle or package.

  • Statement of identity
  • Net quantity of contents
  • Structure-function claim
  • Directions
  • Supplements facts panel
  • Other ingredients in descending order of predominance and by common name or propriety blend.
  • Name and place of business of manufacturer, distributor or packer. This is the address to write to for more product information.

Today dietary supplements not only include vitamins and minerals but also herbs, botanicals, amino acids, enzymes and animal extracts.

Unlike drugs, dietary supplements are not pre-approved for safety or effectiveness by the government before they are marketed.

If you are taking both medicines and supplements together whether prescription or over-the-counter, they could cancel out the effects of each or even be harmful to you. For example if you take Coumadin (a prescription medicine), aspirin (over-the-counter drug), vitamine E (vitamin supplement), and ginkgo biloba (herbal supplement), your blood could be come too thin and could cause internal bleeding or stroke.

Sometimes we think that if one supplements works good, more of it would work better. But taking too much of some nurients, even minerals and vitamins, can cause problems. Taking more than 100 percent of the DV or Daily Value may actually be harmful to your health.

To help you make informed decisions, talk to a registered dietician or to your doctor. They can help you decide how to achieve a balance between the foods and nutrients you need.

If you are having elective surgery, you need to inform your doctor of any vitamins, minerals, herbs or other supplements you are taking. You may have to stop taking them two to three weeks ahead of the procedure to avoid dangerous interactions which may cause changes in heart rate, blood pressure, ability to clot or excess bleeding.

Hopefully not, but If you have to go to the emergency room, be sure to inform them of any supplements together with medications you are taking.

Is anyone responsible to ensure that supplements are safe or that they work?

The DSHEA (Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act) was signed into law in October 1994. This new law regulates the framework for ensuring the safety of dietary supplements.

Before they go to market, the manufacturers of supplements are ultimately responsible for making sure their products are safe. They are also responsible for any claims that are made. However, the FDA can take action against any unsafe dietary supplement product. If you have any adverse effects after using dietary supplements, you or your doctor should report it to the FDA at

Things to consider before starting a supplement

First ask yourself: Does it sound too good to be true? Some of us just like to chase the latest health fad.

Just because you see the term 'natural' does not mean that the product is safe and healthful. Consumers are often misled to think that term assures wholesomeness or mildness. Some weight-loss products claim to be 'herbal' or 'natural' but that does not always mean they are safe.

Just because there is not a warning or caution label does not mean a supplement is free of potentially adverse effects.

Question the authority of those who recommend supplements. They may have no formal training in botanicals, nutrition or medicine. There is much useful information online, but beware of claims of a 'cure-all formula' or 'miraculous cure' or similar wording.

In conclusion, it is best to get needed vitamins and minerals through the food you eat, but if you choose to do so, be smart about dietary supplements!


Submit a Comment

  • elayne001 profile image

    Elayne 5 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    I am glad you felt the urgency of my hub and that you found it useful to you. I appreciate your comments. Aloha!

  • Melis Ann profile image

    Melis Ann 5 years ago from Mom On A Health Hunt

    This is such an important topic for everyone to read about. I've added your article to an article I wrote recently about toxic dyes present in vitamins and medicine. I touch on the concept of natural and artificial vitamin sources, so your hub makes a great addition to that discussion. Buyer beware!

  • elayne001 profile image

    Elayne 7 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    Thank you azanocit989. I appreciate your comments.

  • elayne001 profile image

    Elayne 7 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    I'll have to check those out Mukteshwar deshpande. I'm sure there are many micronutrients that I have not discussed yet.

  • profile image

    Mukteshwar deshpande 7 years ago

    Very informative.Rational and scientific approach to the issue of supplements.

    By the way, some micronutrients, like gold, molybdenum, can be talked about,please/

  • elayne001 profile image

    Elayne 7 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    That's great GmaGoldie. Sometime we don't take very good care of ourselves and supplements can make up the difference. Our lives are too busy these days. Aloha!

  • GmaGoldie profile image

    Kelly Kline Burnett 7 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

    Very good advice. I started supplements when I hit 45 - sadly they are needed - I can really tell a difference.

  • elayne001 profile image

    Elayne 7 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    Thanks LianaK for stopping over. I'll have to study Vitamin D more.

  • LianaK profile image

    LianaK 7 years ago

    Was just reading some research on the benefits of Vitamin D! Thanks for the wonderful hub. Very informative and wise!

  • elayne001 profile image

    Elayne 7 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    Thanks katiem2 for your comments. I agree that it is important. Sometimes we get carried away taking supplements.

  • katiem2 profile image

    katiem2 7 years ago from I'm outta here

    WoW now this is an important message. Good to know and or be reminded of! Peace:)

  • elayne001 profile image

    Elayne 7 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    Thanks Pamela99 and JannyC. I always appreciate your visits and comments.

  • JannyC profile image

    JannyC 7 years ago

    Informative and wise.

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 7 years ago from United States

    Excellent hub with good advice.

  • elayne001 profile image

    Elayne 7 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    Thank you Micky Dee and breakfastpop for your comments. Yes, it is true we rush too much these days. What are we rushing to - our grave? Hopefully we can take better care of ourselves and it is probably cheaper to eat "properly" than to buy all the supplements or medicare care we will need if we don't. Good thoughts to all of you.

  • breakfastpop profile image

    breakfastpop 7 years ago

    Very wise advice indeed.

  • Micky Dee profile image

    Micky Dee 7 years ago

    It is "great" to get our vitamins and other nutrition from the foods we eat. It's close to impossible though -at least for most people. Our foods are compromised greatly. Our fruits and veggies are often picked green and bagged and gassed to ripen in shipping. The last 72 hours on the vine are the most important. Also- I don't know anyone who can afford to or will eat "properly". We're rushed to job, rushed home, etc. But we do AS YOU SAY HAVE TO WATCH OUR SUPPLEMENTS! Great hub. Thanks Elayne!

  • elayne001 profile image

    Elayne 7 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    It is easy to get caught up in all the hype about supplements. I am guilty myself too. Thanks for commenting Ann Nonymous and Hello, hello.

  • Hello, hello, profile image

    Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

    Thank you for your very informative hub.

  • Ann Nonymous profile image

    Ann Nonymous 7 years ago from Virginia

    I agree with you so much, elayne. Some people get so caught up with being healthy and natural they don't realize the risks that even supplements can have if not taken with wisdom and caution!