Dietary supplementation is becoming more common in the country as more people join the bandwagon of healthy eating, and exercise. While the best way to get your vitamins remains through the ingestion of the foods containing the supplements, the use of dietary supplementation is a close second.

The majority of adults in the United States take one or more dietary supplements either every day or occasionally. Today’s dietary supplements include vitamins, minerals, herbals and botanicals, amino acids, enzymes, and many other products. Dietary supplements come in a variety of forms: traditional tablets, capsules, and powders, as well as drinks and energy bars. Popular supplements include vitamins D and E; minerals like calcium and iron; herbs such as Echinacea and garlic; and specialty products like glucosamine, probiotics, and fish oils.

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Many people prefer the supplements instead of the foods containing the vitamins due to the easy accessibility, convenience, and reduced costs of using dietary supplements. Dietary supplements come in oral tablets, capsules, powders, drinks & energy bars. The supplements are regulated by the FDA to ensure that they fall within the acceptable criteria.

A dietary supplement is a product intended for ingestion that contains a “dietary ingredient” intended to add further nutritional value to (supplement) the diet. A “dietary ingredient” may be one, or any combination, of the following substances:

  • a vitamin
  • a mineral
  • A herb or other botanical
  • an amino acid
  • a dietary substance for use by people to supplement the diet by increasing the total dietary intake
  • a concentrate, metabolite, constituent, or extract

Dietary supplements may be found in many forms such as tablets, capsules, soft gels, gelcaps, liquids, or powders

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Dietary supplements are found in forms such as tablets, capsules, soft gels, gelcaps, liquids, or powders. It is intended to increase or add to the nutritional value of the diet. In the future while deciding on the supplement to use consider utilizing the following criteria;

  • Nutritional, dietary, and herbal supplement manufacturers are not are required to run studies to determine product safety or efficacy.
  • In the U.S., the FDA does not analyze the contents of dietary supplements.
  • Dietary supplement manufacturers in the U.S. must meet the FDA’s Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) for food, but some companies also follow the GMP for drugs on a voluntary basis.
  • Specific health claims on dietary supplement labels in the U.S. are not approved by the FDA and must also include a disclaimer that states the nutritional supplement is not intended to “diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.”
  • Daily Value (DV) describes the recommended daily intake of a particular nutritional supplement if one is established.

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Dietary supplements have enormous benefits but can also cause problems to your health. Therefore, always consider the Daily Value or the recommended intake of the supplement and ask your doctor for more information. It is because some supplements react poorly to some medications and cause severe conditions. Here is a list of some common negative interactions:

  • Calcium can interact with heart medicine, certain diuretics, and aluminum and magnesium-containing antacids.
  • Magnesium can interact with certain diuretics, some cancer drugs, and magnesium-containing antacids.
  • Vitamin K can interact with blood thinners like Coumadin.
  • St. John’s Wort is known to adversely affect selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) drugs (i.e., anti-depressant drugs), blood pressure medication, and birth control pills.
  • Coenzyme Q-10 can interact with anticoagulants, blood pressure medication, and chemotherapy drugs.
  • Ginkgo biloba and vitamin E can increase the risk of internal bleeding when taken with aspirin or anticoagulants such as warfarin.
  • Ginseng can also increase the risk of internal bleeding when taken with anticoagulants or NSAIDs, and may cause side effects when taken with MAOI antidepressants.
  • Echinacea can change how the body breaks down certain medications in the liver.
  • Saw palmetto can interact with anticoagulants and NSAID pain relievers.
  • Some dietary supplements can have unwanted effects during surgery
    You may be asked to stop taking certain products 2 to 4 weeks ahead of time to avoid potentially dangerous supplement/drug interactions, such as changes in heart rate, blood pressure, and increased bleeding
  • There are some known toxic herbs that are still available to the consumer, such as: Aristolochia (linked to kidney failure and cancer in the U.S., China, Europe, and Japan); Yohimbe (a sexual stimulant linked to heart and respiratory problems); bitter orange (has effects similar to those of the banned stimulant ephedra); and Chaparral (linked to liver damage)

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Some supplements can cause serious health problems, so in making this choice information is power. Most people falsely believe that the benefit from supplements is increased with intake of more supplements. Unfortunately, this is not true as even in taking vitamins and minerals by using foods that contain the supplement; there is always a limit. The excesses of some vitamins and minerals like fat-soluble vitamins will lead to serious health problems.

Even if your body can benefit from a particular supplement, in excessive doses it may still cause health problems. For example, drinking green tea may provide fat burning and antioxidant benefits, but taking high-concentration green tea supplements can be toxic to the liver.

  • Taking too much selenium and vitamin E may increase the risk of prostate cancer.
  • Beta-carotene beyond the amount included in a daily multi-vitamin may increase the likelihood of lung cancer in smokers.

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