What are supplements?
Dietary supplements come in many forms, including tablets, capsules, powders, energy bars, and liquids.
- vitamin and mineral products
- "botanical" or herbal products—These come in many forms and may include plant materials, algae, macroscopic fungi, or a combination of these materials.
- amino acid products—Amino acids are known as the building blocks of proteins and play a role in metabolism.
- enzyme supplements—Enzymes are complex proteins that speed up biochemical reactions.
People use dietary supplements for a wide assortment of reasons. Some seek to compensate for diets, medical conditions, or eating habits that limit the intake of essential vitamins and nutrients. Other people look to them to boost energy or to get a good night's sleep.
Talk with a health care professional
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) suggests that you consult with a health care professional before using any dietary supplement. Many supplements contain ingredients that have strong biological effects, and such products may not be safe in all people.
If you have certain health conditions and take these products, you may be putting yourself at risk. Your health care professional can discuss with you whether it is safe for you to take a particular product and whether the product is appropriate for your needs. Here is some general advice:
- Dietary supplements are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or alleviate the effects of diseases.
- Using supplements improperly can be harmful.
- Some supplements can have unwanted effects before, during, or after surgery.
Are Supplements Safe?
Many dietary supplements have clean safety histories and do help to improve heath and wellness. For example millions of Americans responsibly consume multi-vitamins and experience no ill effects.
Other dietary supplements have been shown to be beneficial for certain health conditions. For example, the use of folic acid supplements by women of childbearing age who may become pregnant reduces the risk of some birth defects.
Another example is the crystalline form of vitamin B12, which is beneficial in people over age 50 who often have a reduced ability to absorb naturally occurring vitamin B12.
Be a safe and informed consumer
- Let your health care professional advise you on sorting reliable information from questionable information.
- Do not self-diagnose any health condition. Work with health care professionals to determine how best to achieve optimal health.