With recent articles and news reports boasting both the benefits and dangers associated with using over-the-counter dietary supplements, it can be challenging to decipher what information is reliable and what isn’t.  Here, we summarize some key pieces of information you should consider when deciding whether or not to take a dietary supplement.

  • OTC supplements are NOT tested by the FDA before being sold to the public unless it contains a “new dietary ingredient.” If it does contain a new ingredient, the manufacturer has to prove that the new ingredient is safe.
  • Due to limited funding, the FDA focuses on public health emergencies and products reported to cause injury or illness. Unlike medications, different brands of supplements are not strictly regulated to ensure that they are safe.
  • By law it is the responsibility of manufacturers to ensure the safety of its supplement. The FDA has to show that a dietary supplement is unsafe before it can restrict its use or remove it from stores.
  • OTC supplements have sometimes been found to contain ingredients that were not identified on the label. This can include prescription medications/substances which can cause serious health consequences.
  • Some supplements can interact with medications you are currently taking. This can lead to serious health problems. For example, St. John’s Wort may reduce the effectiveness of prescription drugs for heart disease, depression, seizures, certain cancers or oral contraceptives.  Ask your pharmacist or dietitian if you have questions about possible interactions.
  • No certification, inspection or permits are required to manufacture supplements in the U.S. Anyone can produce and sell supplements.  This highlights the importance of purchasing from reputable companies.Dietary supplements can provide necessary nutrients and help your body function optimally.
  • There are proven health benefits to multiple dietary supplements.
  • Supplements are not intended to replace a balanced diet.  It is ideal to get a wide vari