Using Dietary Supplements Wisely
Written by Editor   
Thursday, July 24, 2014 12:00 AM

According to the 2007 National Health Interview Survey, which included questions on Americans’ use of natural products (not including vitamins and minerals), 17.7 percent of American adults had used these types of products in the past 12 months. The most popular of these products used by adults in the past 30 days were fish oil/omega 3/DHA (37.4 percent), glucosamine (19.9 percent), echinacea (19.8 percent), flaxseed oil or pills (15.9 percent), and ginseng (14.1 percent). National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data collected from 2003 to 2006 that covered all types of dietary supplements indicate that 53 percent of American adults took at least one dietary supplement, most commonly multivitamin/multimineral supplements (taken by 39 percent of all adults). Women were more likely than men to take dietary supplements.

Like many Americans, you may take dietary supplements in an effort to stay healthy. With so many dietary supplements available and so many claims made about their health benefits, how can you decide whether a supplement is safe or useful?

Dietary supplements were defined in a law passed by Congress in 1994 called the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA). According to DSHEA, a dietary supplement is a product that:

  • Is intended to supplement the diet
  • Contains one or more dietary ingredients (including vitamins, minerals, herbs or other botanicals, amino acids, and certain other substances) or their constituents
  • Is intended to be taken by mouth, in forms such as tablet, capsule, powder, softgel, gelcap, or liquid
  • Is labeled as being a dietary supplement.

Herbal supplements are one type of dietary supplement. An herb is a plant or plant part (such as leaves, flowers, or seeds) that is used for its flavor, scent, and/or potential health-related properties. “Botanical” is often used as a synonym for “herb.” An herbal supplement may contain a single herb or mixtures of herbs. The law requires that all of the herbs be listed on the product label.

The Federal Government regulates dietary supplements through the FDA. The regulations for dietary supplements are not the same as those for prescription or over-the-counter drugs.

  • Manufacturers of dietary supplements are responsible for ensuring that their products are safe and that the label information is truthful and not misleading. 
  • Manufacturers may make three types of claims for their dietary supplements: health claims, structure/function claims, and nutrient content claims. Some of these claims describe the link between a food substance and a disease or health-related condition; the intended benefits of using the product; or the amount of a nutrient or dietary substance in a product.
Different requirements apply to each type of claim. If a dietary supplement manufacturer makes a claim about a product’s effects, the manufacturer must have data to support the claim. Claims about how a supplement affects the structure or function of the body must be followed by the words “This statement has not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
  • Manufacturers must follow “current good manufacturing practices” for dietary supplements to ensure that these products are processed, labeled, and packaged consistently and meet quality standards.
  • Once a dietary supplement is on the market, the FDA evaluates safety by doing research and keeping track of any side effects reported by consumers, health care providers, and supplement companies. If the FDA finds a product to be unsafe, it can take action against the manufacturer and/or distributor, and may issue a warning or require that the product be removed from the marketplace.

Also, once a dietary supplement is on the market, the FDA monitors product information, such as label claims and package inserts. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is responsible for regulating product advertising; it requires that all information be truthful and not misleading.

Source:  http://nccam.nih.gov/health/supplements/wiseuse.htm?nav=rss