What are dietary supplements?
- Dietary supplements are products that people add to their diets. They include vitamins, minerals, herbs, and amino acids.
- They can be pills, liquids, or powders.
- By law, companies that make these products cannot claim they prevent, treat, or cure disease. For example, a product cannot claim that it can "cure cancer" or "help you lose weight."
Can dietary supplements be taken instead of eating certain foods? No.
- Don't take supplements instead of eating healthy foods.
- Some dietary supplements may help some people get enough essential nutrients to improve their diets and be in their best health.
- If you are having surgery, taking other supplements or medicines, or have health problems dietary supplements may be harmful.
Should I check with my doctor before using a supplement? Yes.
- Dietary supplements should not be used instead of prescription medicine.
- If you have health problems and take these products, you may put yourself at risk.
- Talk to your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist if you:
- are pregnant or nursing a baby
- take other supplements or medicines
- are having surgery
- have diabetes
- have high blood pressure
- have any other health problems
Is it safe to take dietary supplements with other medicines?
- Always talk to your doctor, pharmacist or nurse before you take any dietary supplement.
- These products may have risks. They could be harmful or life threatening if:
- You are also taking other dietary supplements
- You are also taking other prescription or over-the-counter medicines
- You use them instead of medicine that your doctor prescribes
How are dietary supplements regulated?
Dietary Supplement regulations are similar to food regulations. This means:
- The FDA does not approve dietary supplements before they are sold.
- FDA can only take action against products that are not safe or products that make false claims after they are for sale.
Where can I learn more about a certain product?
- Call or write to the company that makes the product.
- Talk to your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist.
How do I report a problem or illness caused by one of these products?
- Call 1-800-FDA-1088
- Go to the Medwatch website at: http://www.fda.gov/medwatch/report/consumer/consumer.htm
Tips on searching the web for information on supplements
Ask yourself these questions:
- Who runs the web site?
- What is the web site trying to do? Is it telling you about the product or just trying to sell it?
- Where does the web site get its information? Are there studies that back it up?
- Is the information up to date? Check the date to see when it was posted or updated.
To learn more:
Office of Dietary Supplements:
National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine: