What are Dietary Supplements Used For?

Dietary supplements are substances that can be used to add nutrients to your diet or reduce the risk of health problems, such as osteoporosis or arthritis. They are not medicines and are not intended to treat, diagnose, mitigate, prevent or cure diseases. The FDA is the federal agency that oversees both supplements and medications, but the regulations for dietary supplements are different from those for prescription or over-the-counter drugs. Dietary supplements come in many forms, such as tablets, capsules, softgels, powders, sticks, gummies, and liquids. They are intended to supplement the diet and are different from conventional foods.

Normally, you should be able to get all the nutrients you need from a balanced diet. However, supplements can provide you with additional nutrients when your diet is lacking or certain health conditions (such as cancer, diabetes, or chronic diarrhea) trigger a deficiency. Vitamin and mineral supplements are often misused and taken without professional advice. They are often used as a form of medication to treat ailments such as colds or to counteract lifestyle problems such as stress. Some complementary medications, such as vitamin and mineral supplements, may interact with prescription drugs and medical treatments. The Federal Trade Commission requires that information about a supplemental product be truthful and not misleading.

Research shows that a food component that has an effect on the body may not have the same effect when isolated and taken as a supplement. Manufacturers can add vitamins, minerals, and other supplement ingredients to the foods you eat, especially cereal and breakfast drinks. Getting nutrients from a healthy, well-balanced diet can be much more effective than getting them from supplements. In addition, some supplements may interact with medications, interfere with laboratory tests, or have dangerous effects during surgery. If you think you have had an adverse reaction to a dietary supplement, tell your healthcare provider. Botanical supplements (such as garlic, ginger, ginkgo biloba, echinacea, and others) are made of plant material and many of them are sold as “natural products”.

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