Numerous products are sold for their touted benefits in nutrition and in the prevention and treatment of disease. In 2003, Americans spent $18.8 billion on supplements and about half (170 million) of Americans take some kind of dietary supplement. Before taking any supplement, consider some things first.
1. Dietary supplements do not undergo testing by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), nor independent safety review as do new prescription and/or over-the counter drugs, so beware of manufacturers health claims not backed by science.
2. A supplement may not contain either the ingredients listed on
the product label or in the amount indicated.
3. No guarantee ensures the purity of the supplement. Other
harmful additives not listed on the label may be included.
Unfortunately, it is not clear which supplements are effective and without risk. Be skeptical about any supplements that promise magical results.
Supplements promising magic results are not a reliable substitute. What can you do to ensure a healthy lifestyle?
1. Eat a healthful meals which includes all the nutrients
(carbohydrates, protein and fat), vitamins, minerals and water needed for good health (go to USDA MyPyramid.gov),
2. Exercise or increase daily activities from 45 minutes to an
3. Get plenty of rest and relaxation, and
4. Take physician-prescribed drugs and/or supplements.
What questions should be answered before taking any supplement?
1. Are the health claims from a reliable source, or a qualified professional? (Advertising and information from “.com” websites are not always reliable sources.)
2. Do the claims sound too good to be true?
3. Are there any long-term studies showing the products are safe and work as advertised?
4. Do the benefits outweigh the costs and risks, or are there too
5. Is the manufacturer reliable? Is the item certified by US
6. Ask your physician or a registered dietitian: “Do I need a diet supplement a day. An Example: St. John’s Wort, an herbal treatment popularly used to self-treat depression, is an example of a dietary supplement that may cause problems. Potential Advantages include:
1. Cost less money than prescription, anti-depression medications.
2. Seems more natural and self-empowering to use an herbal product.
1. The active ingredient(s) are present in variable and unmeasured
dosages depending on preparation.
2. St. John’s Wort has not been an effective treatment for
depression in independent studies.
3. Common side effects include as follows: dry mouth, dizziness,
diarrhea, nausea, increased sensitivity to sunlight, and fatigue.
4. May interact with other drugs and make them less effective (e.g.birth control pills, antidepressants).
5. May discourage better treatments for depression.
The websites below may help you decide whether or not to take a dietary supplement. They are not intended to replace information from your healthcare professional:
• Office of Dietary supplements: http://ods.od.nih.gov/
• U.S. Pharmacopeia: http://www.usp.org/
• National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: http://nccam.nih.gov/
Contact Carolyn McDowell, Texas AgriLife Extension Service San Saba County agent at 325-372-5416, for more information.
1. Radimer K, Bindewald B, Hughes J, Ervine B, Swanson C, Picciano
MF. Dietary Supplement Use by US Adults: Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999–2000. Am J Edidemiol. 2004 Aug 15;160(4):339-49.
2. Natural Standard. Available at:http://ww.naturalstandard.com/Accessed on February 9, 2009.
3. Tips For The Savvy Supplement User: Making Informed Decisions And Evaluating Information. U.S Food and Drug Administration. Center for Applied Nutrition and Food Safety. 2002. Available at: http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/ds-savvy.html. Accessed on February 9,2009.
Prepared by Kelly Vaughan, BS, Texas A&M University Dietetic Intern, and Mary Kinney Bielamowicz, PhD, RD, LD, Professor and Nutrition Specialist, Department of Nutrition and Food Science, Texas A&M University System, Spring, 2009.