To Supplement or Not To Supplement - Part 2

When Choosing an Appropriate Dietary Supplement – Things to Know

In recent past, all dietary supplements were subject to the same regulatory requirements as other foods, but in 1994, President Clinton signed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) into effect which created a new regulatory system for safety and labeling of dietary supplements.  “Under DSHEA, a firm is responsible for determining that the dietary supplements it manufactures or distributes are safe and that any representations or claims made about them are substantiated by adequate evidence to show that they are not false or misleading. This means that dietary supplements do not need approval from FDA before they are marketed. Except in the case of a new dietary ingredient.”  ( Since dietary supplements are not held to the same regulations, it can put individuals at risk that are taking supplements without the proper guidance.

If you decide to take a vitamin or mineral supplement, consider these tips:

  • Check the Label. Read all labels CAREFULLY. Product labels can tell you what the active ingredient(s), which nutrients are included, the serving size, and the amount of nutrients in each serving. Since dietary supplements can have interactions with certain medicines, it is important to talk to your dietitian about supplements you are considering taking.
  • Avoid supplements that provide "megadoses". "If a little is good, a lot must be great", this idea does not apply to multivitamin-mineral supplements.  Choose a supplement that provides about 100% of the Daily Value (DV) of all the vitamins and minerals.  Avoid supplements that may contain up to 500% of one vitamin/mineral.  You may notice that calcium-containing supplements don't provide 100% of the DV. If they did, the tablets would be too large to swallow.
  • Look for USP on the label. If the supplement has been tested by the U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), you can be sure that the supplement meets the standards for strength, purity, disintegration and dissolution established by the testing organization.
  • Store all vitamin and mineral supplements safely. Put supplements in a locked cabinet or other secure location out of children's reach. Don't leave supplements on the counter or rely on child-resistant packaging. Store dietary supplements in a dry, cool place. Avoid hot, humid storage locations, such as in the bathroom. Be aware that supplements do expire so regularly check the expiration dates.
  • Check alerts and advisories. The Food and Drug Administration keeps a list of dietary supplements that are under regulatory review or that have been reported to cause adverse effects. Check its website periodically for updates