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Dietary Supplements Fact Sheet

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Dietary supplementsDietary supplement is a product taken orally, that is intended to supplement the diet and contains one or more dietary ingredients which include vitamins, minerals, herbs or other botanicals (botanical is a plant or plant part valued for its medicinal or therapeutic properties, flavor, and/or scent), amino acids, and other substances found in the human diet, such as enzymes, organ tissues, glandulars, and metabolites. These supplements can also be extracts in the form of as tablets, capsules, softgels, gelcaps, liquids, bar, or powders. These readily available supplements are sought after by some, and frowned upon by others. Let us learn a little more about supplements so as to make an informed decision.


Dietary supplements are not drugs as they cannot legally claim diagnose, cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent a disease. The label of a dietary supplement or food product may contain one of three types of claims

  • Health claim (relationship between a food, food component, or dietary supplement ingredient, and reducing risk of a disease or health-related condition)

  • Nutrient content claim (the relative amount of a nutrient or dietary substance in a product)

  • Structure/function claim (a statement describing how a product may affect the organs or systems of the body and it cannot mention any specific disease)


Labelling of Dietary Supplements

Labelling of a particular supplement is vital, unlike conventional foods that carry a nutritional label, dietary supplements carry “supplementary Facts label”.  As recommended by FDA these labels must contain name of product (including the word “supplement” or a statement that the product is a supplement), net quantity of contents, name and place of business of manufacturer, packer, or distributor, and directions for use. The supplemental facts must also contain the following information


  • Serving size, list of dietary ingredients, amount per serving size (by weight), percent of Daily Value (%DV), if established.
  • If the dietary ingredient is a botanical, the scientific name of the plant or the common or usual name standardized in the reference Herbs of Commerce, 2nd Edition (2000 edition) and the name of the plant part used.
  • If the dietary ingredient is a proprietary blend (i.e., a blend exclusive to the manufacturer), the total weight of the blend and the components of the blend in order of predominance by weight.
  • Non-dietary ingredients such as fillers, artificial colors, sweeteners, flavors, or binders; listed by weight in descending order of predominance and by common name or proprietary blend.


Effectiveness, Safety and Risk of Dietary Supplements

If your intake of conventional foods is nutritionally inadequate then dietary supplements are prescribed to maintain healthy body function. There is scientific evidence to back up certain supplements can are beneficial for overall health and for managing some health conditions. However, more studies are required to establish their efficacy and efficiency.

Many of these supplements contain potent ingredients that may cause strong reactions in the body. Thus, one must be completely aware of the ingredients of the supplements and avoid it completely if they are allergic to any of the constituents (like soy or milk allergies in weight gain supplements), or in presence of any nutrient drug interactions (like vitamin C and E, might reduce the effectiveness of some types of cancer chemotherapy).

In general, all dietary supplements must be consumed only when they are prescribed by a health care professional, and on commencement one should carefully observe for occurrence of any adverse events. Fortification with vitamins and minerals in cereal and other food products is a common practice, when consuming such food the other dietary supplement intake should be suitably modified to avoid toxicity or symptoms of overdose, like excessive vitamin A consumption may cause headaches and liver damage, reduce bone strength, and cause birth defects

The onus of quality control lies on the manufacturer when it comes to correct production techniques, storage and labelling of the products. The U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not determine whether dietary supplements are effective before they are marketed, but post marketing if the product falls short of quality it would be recalled by FDA.


Think before you consume a dietary supplement. Do you really need it? Can we get the desired nutrient naturally? Is it effective? Does it cause any side effects? Is it approved by your physician? If yes, go ahead!


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Dietary Supplements Fact Sheet