What are the Different Types of Dietary Supplements?

Dietary supplements are products manufactured to supplement the diet by taking a pill, capsule, tablet, powder or liquid. These supplements can provide nutrients extracted from food or synthetic sources to increase the amount you consume. The class of nutritional compounds includes vitamins, minerals, fiber, fatty acids and amino acids. Botanicals or herbs, botanical compounds, and animals can also be sources of supplement ingredients.

Dietary supplements may also contain substances that have not been confirmed to be essential to life, but are marketed as having a beneficial biological effect. The European Commission has established harmonized standards to help ensure that dietary supplements are safe and properly labeled. However, there is little evidence of benefit when vitamins are consumed as a dietary supplement by healthy people with a nutritionally adequate diet. Dietary supplements may include other labeling claims that are not defined by law or regulation. The FDA regulations require those who manufacture, package, or store dietary supplements to follow current good manufacturing practices that help ensure the identity, purity, quality, concentration and composition of dietary supplements. You can find dietary supplements in many forms such as pills, gummies, powders, liquids, teas and bars.

It is difficult to determine the quality, safety and effectiveness of a dietary supplement from its label due to the lack of requirements for quality, safety and efficacy evaluations. Patients should be advised to discuss taking any dietary supplement with their family doctor to ensure that there are no interactions with underlying medical conditions, as well as with prescription and over-the-counter medications. Nutraceuticals (foods that produce some type of physiological benefit) and functional foods (foods “fortified” to provide a physiological benefit that unmodified foods cannot offer) are also considered dietary supplements. Prenatal vitamins are dietary supplements commonly given to pregnant women to provide nutrients that can reduce maternal and fetal health complications. The FDA recommends that consumers talk to their doctor, pharmacist, or other health professional before deciding to buy or use a dietary supplement. Along with the information on the new dietary ingredient and the dietary supplement in which it will be marketed, the notification must include safety information on which the notifier has based its conclusion that the new dietary ingredient can be reasonably expected to be safe when used under the conditions recommended or suggested on the label of the dietary supplement. Dietary supplements for maintaining the normal structure and regulating the microflora of the large intestine are also available.

Manufacturers are responsible for ensuring that their product is safe before marketing, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a responsibility to take action against any unsafe dietary supplement product.

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