To Supplement with Supplements?


By: Nikki Nies

When the mention of supplements arises it’s evident there’s conclusive perspectives on the need and use of supplements in daily life.  The talk of supplements even causes controversies with health professionals, as some want to avoid supplements at all costs, while others see the benefits outweigh the costs.  Defined by Congress through the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, a dietary supplement is regarded as: Herbal-Natural-Supplements1

  • Not as tobacco
  • Intended to supplement the diet
  • Contains one or more dietary ingredients and/or its constituents (i.e. vitamins, minerals, botanicals, herbs, amino acids)
  • Intended to be taken orally in the composition of a pill, capsule, tablet or liquid
  • Is labeled on the front panel of the bottle as a dietary supplement

The Federal Drug & Administration (FDA) regulates dietary supplements, however, not in the same thorough process as every day foods.  Supplement ingredients that that have been sold in the U.S. prior to 1994 are not required to be reviewed by the FDA prior to being placed on the market since they’re presumed to be safe.  Those ingredients that have emerged after 1994 must be notify the FDA and request permission for usage through evidence that it provides beneficial effects.

The decision for a product to be labeled a dietary supplement versus a conventional food or drug is dependent on how the product is advertised and portrayed by the manufacturer and/or the accompany literature.  However, many dietary and food supplement food labels do not provide such information.  Also, unlike drug products, there are no provisions in the law to for FDA to “approve” dietary supplements for safety or effectiveness before they are put on the market.

Once a dietary supplement is marketed, FDA has to prove that the product is not safe in order to restrict its use or remove it from the market. In contrast, before being allowed to market a drug product, manufacturers must obtain FDA approval by providing convincing evidence that it is both safe and effective.

Since supplements aren’t required by law to be tested for the safety and effectiveness, the amount of sound evidence of the positive impact of supplements  is limited and varies from supplement to supplement.  Drugs are different from dietary supplements as they can include claims such as the ability to mitigate, diagnose, cure, treat or prevent a disease, while said claims can not be done on a dietary supplement label.

I know many swear by the benefits of supplements.  I’m glad to see they’ve benefited from using them, but I’m still wary of their positive impact and lack of FDA regulation.  While food should be the primary source of nutrition, I can see how and why people would use supplements to aid in deficiencies.  Definitely more research and better regulation needs to occur for a better stance on supplements.


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