Posted by: Chelsea Hampton | July 24, 2012

The Vast (and often confusing) World of Vitamins, Minerals and Supplements – Part III

  • To supplement, or not to supplement, that is the question…

The supplement industry is massive, and there are important points for consumers to consider before deciding to incorporate any kind of dietary supplement. There is such a wide variety of supplements available, and it can be a confusing process to decide what, if any, should be taken. So, what exactly is a supplement? According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration:

“A dietary supplement is a product taken by mouth that contains a “dietary ingredient” intended to supplement the diet. The “dietary ingredients” in these products may include: vitamins, minerals, herbs or other botanicals, amino acids, and substances such as enzymes, organ tissues, glandulars, and metabolites,” (

Nowadays “dietary ingredients” can be found in just about everything. One might even say we are seeing a new advent of supplements, as this industry is constantly expanding. The market now includes nutrition bars, nutrition drinks and “enhanced” water, supplemental powders, various liquid drops and pills, edible gels and more. Below are some important points to consider when taking any kind of supplement. Always be sure to do your own research using reliable resources and consult a medical provider about your personal health needs.

Although manufacturers are required to list all ingredients of a product and must ensure that it is safe, dietary supplements do not need FDA approval to be marketed. Dietary supplements are in the category of food products.

There are no limitations or standard serving parameters set on the ingredients of a dietary supplement. So, while there are reference daily intakes (RDIs) set forth regarding nutrient consumption, this is not something that requires FDA approval in making supplements.

-Supplement labeling cannot state that the product is designed to treat or prevent any health condition, because supplements are classified as food products and not drugs.

-Supplements should not be used as a replacement for the nutrients derived from food – a healthy, well-balanced diet is the ideal source for adequate nutrition.

-While there may be benefits in taking supplements, there are also risks involved as well. Even though supplements are categorized as “food products,” the dietary ingredients can still have a significant impact on the body. Vitamins, minerals, herbs and other nutrients affect the body in many different ways, and it is possible to consume too much of a given nutrient. Supplements can also interfere/interact with medications and lead to dangerous side effects.   

These are just some of the important points to consider when taking supplements, even if it is just a daily multivitamin. This is not to state that everyone should just avoid supplements altogether, but rather, it is meant to highlight the importance of being an informed consumer! Some supplements can be quite beneficial or even needed, particularly to fill gaps in nutrition due to illness or other conditions. Some dietary ingredients may be recommended for pregnant women, older adults, or individuals with certain medical conditions. It really depends on individual needs, and it is important to consult a physician about taking any new supplements and/or if unwanted side effects are suspected. There are many resources available online that provide information on this topic. The FDA’s website has a great section on dietary supplements that provides consumer information, alerts, regulatory information and more:

Other good resources include: Dietary Supplements.

National Institutes of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements: Health Information.


Information obtained and adapted from the following sources:

– U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Overview of Dietary Supplements.

– Arthritis Foundation: Arthritis Today: The Facts About Supplements.

– Live Strong. Diet & Nutrition: The Truth About Dietary Supplements.

This information is provided courtesy of the Wyoming AgrAbility Project. For more information, visit our website or call toll-free at 866-395-4986.


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