About dietary supplement what you should know
TIME: 2016-4-8 13:00:46

 Dietary supplements are the most commonly used of all complementary and alternative therapies, primarily because they are widely available and can be bought without consulting a health care practitioner.






The FDA regulates dietary supplements differently from drugs. The FDA regulates only quality control and good manufacturing processes but does not ensure standardization of the active ingredients or efficacy.








The Dietary Supplement Health Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994 defines a dietary supplement as

  • Any product (except tobacco)—in pill, capsule, tablet, or liquid form—containing a vitamin, mineral, herb or other plant product, amino acid, or other known dietary substance that is intended as a supplement to the normal diet

In addition, certain hormones, such as dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA, a precursor to androgens and estrogens ) and melatonin, are regulated as dietary supplements and not as prescription drugs.


The DSHEA requires that the product label identify the product as a dietary supplement and notify the consumer that the claims for the supplement have not been evaluated by the FDA. The label must also list each ingredient by name, quantity, and total weight and identify plant parts from which ingredients are derived . Manufacturers are permitted to make claims about the products structure and function (eg, good for urinary tract health) but cannot make or imply claims for the product as a drug or therapy (eg, treats UTIs).

Safety and efficacy

Most people who use dietary supplements assume that they are good for health generally, are safe and effective for treating specific conditions, or both because dietary supplements are natural (ie, derived from plants or animals) and because some are supported by centuries of use in traditional systems of medicine. However, the FDA does not require manufacturers of dietary supplements to prove safety or efficacy (although supplements must have a history of safety). Most supplements have not been rigorously studied. For most, evidence suggesting safety or efficacy comes from traditional use, in vitro studies, certain case reports, and animal studies. However, manufacturers and distributors of supplements now must report serious adverse events to the FDA through the MedWatch system. There are a few supplements (eg, fish oil, chondroitin/glucosamine, saw palmetto) now proved to be safe and useful complements to standard drugs.

Evidence concerning the safety and efficacy of dietary supplements is increasing rapidly as more and more clinically based studies are being done. Information about such studies is available at the National Institutes of Healths National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) .

Purity and standardization

Lack of regulation and government monitoring also means that supplements are not monitored to ensure that they contain the ingredients or amount of active ingredient the manufacturer claims they contain. The supplement may have unlisted ingredients, which may be inert or harmful (eg, natural toxins, bacteria, pesticides, lead or other heavy metals), or it may contain variable amounts of active ingredients, especially when whole herbs are ground or made into extracts. Consumers are at risk of getting less, more, or, in some cases, none of the active ingredient, if the active ingredient is even known. Most herbal products are mixtures of several substances, and which ingredient is the most active is not always known. The lack of standardization means not only that products from different manufacturers may vary, but also that different batches produced by the same manufacturer may differ. This product variability is a particular source of difficulty in conducting rigorous scientific trials and comparing the results among different trials. However, some supplements have been standardized and may include a designation of standardization on the label.

New regulations governing supplement production in the US include rules for Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). These rules strengthen standards for keeping manufacturing facilities and equipment clean and raw materials pure and uncontaminated. GMPs also ensure proper labeling, packaging, and storage of the finished product.

Other concerns

Additional areas of concern include

  • Use of dietary supplements instead of conventional drugs

  • Stability of supplements (especially herbal products) once manufactured

  • Toxicity

  • Interactions between supplements and drugs

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