Are Your Dietary Supplements Safe?

Dietary Supplements Safety
Get The Facts Before Taking Supplements

An estimated 200 million Americans take vitamins and dietary supplements on a daily basis in an effort to stay healthy or to improve their health. Supplements that range from herbal remedies like ginkgo biloba, to mineral supplements like fish and seed oils, to diet and weight loss pills, down to the complex multivitamin with a bit of everything in it. But how many of us check to see what ingredients we are putting in our bodies? Some experts claim this haphazard approach to taking different types of supplements could be dangerous.

Booming Vitamin and Dietary Supplement Industry

The vitamin and dietary supplement industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the world and according to the National Institutes of Health, it is a booming $37 billion-a-year business in the U.S. Some of this consumption is medically necessary and recommended by a doctor. However there are many consumers out there taking over-the-counter supplements simply because they heard about it from a friend or colleague or perhaps read an article about it. But where is the research coming from?

New York’s Attorney General took action against some prominent retailers for selling mislabeled herbal supplements. National retailers like Target, GNC, Walgreens, and WalMart all received cease-and-desist notifications when DNA tests found that some store brand supplements did not contain the ingredients as advertised. Some of these supplements included ginkgo biloba, ginseng, echinacea and St. John’s Wort. Turns out that almost 80 percent of the pills tested did not contain the key herbal or plant ingredient listed on the label. They instead included fillers like rice, beans, wheat, mustard and radish.

FDA Warning Against Unsafe Supplements

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has now stepped up their efforts due to this alarming trend and are finally issuing warnings and conducting more investigations into the dangers of hidden ingredients and mislabeling occurring with dietary supplements. Along with food and drugs, the FDA needs to protect consumers from unsafe and contaminated supplements. The delay in FDA’s involvement until now, according to the Acting Commissioner, is that “the significant growth in the dietary supplements industry, and the various ways supplements reach consumers, outpaced FDA’s resources to regulate this industry.”

While not all supplements are bad, there are some very reputable vitamins and  supplements that can combat health ailments and/or contributing to a healthier life, but what we need is to be armed to know when a supplement is not authentic.

Tainted Products, Supplement Safety and Quality

The FDA now has a “tainted products” list on their website which lists all the supplements they have found so far that have been wrongly marketed as dietary supplements as well as a list of tainted weight loss products. In addition, the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) is aiming to improve their database on dietary supplements as well. The ODS database provides information on more than 50,000 dietary supplements to help consumers make the right decisions about which to use and which to avoid.

For consumers with concerns on the supplements they are taking, these growing databases provided by the FDA and ODS will make it easier to do your research to be sure your dietary supplements are high quality and pure, with no hidden ingredients. For tips on how to select quality supplements, read “Five ways to choose a quality dietary supplement.”

Beware of Health Fraud Scams

In addition to being knowledgeable on dietary supplements, the FDA also has issued warnings to watch out for overall health fraud scams. Be careful, stay alert and know the facts before taking your health into your own hands.