Dietary Supplements — The Answers 2


Did you get the answer to question number 1 right?

Let’s look at number 2…..

Supplements must be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, (the FDA, or USFDA), before being sold…..FALSE!

How about number 3…..

The regulation of supplements is the same as drugs/medicines…FALSE again!

In 1994 the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act was passed after intense lobbying by the suppplements industry. This changed the regulation of supplements by the FDA. Since then they have been regulated as foods, and not drugs.

Drugs are strictly regulated whether they are prescription or nonprescription, brand name or generic. They must be tested for safety and for efficacy before they can be sold. All ingredients must be listed. Possible side effects have to be clearly stated. Drug companies must keep track of “adverse events.” These have to be reported to the FDA so that the FDA can swiftly take a drug off the market if necessary. (Okay, sometimes it may not seem so swift. And then on the other hand, we in the United States often wait years for a medicine that people in Europe seem to be using with no problem. It may not be a perfect system but for the most part, it works.)

By contrast, neither safety nor efficacy have to be proven with supplements. The manufacturer simply has to send the FDA a copy of the label. The law limits the claims that can be made on labels. Only rare supplements can state that they actually treat or cure a disease. Labels don’t have to list the exact ingredients or possible side effects. The supplement manufacturers are supposed to  inform the FDA of reported problems, but it isn’t clear that they do.

So number 4… can trust that the label on a supplement tells you the exact ingredients and the amount of each, is…..FALSE!

And so is number 5…..supplements must carry warning labels about possible side effects.

All false! Are you looking at supplements in a different way now? I hope so. I cannot think of a single supplement, herb, etc. that is 100% free of possible side effects. You must arm yourself with information and education. But you cannot rely on the supplement manufacturer to tell you what you need to know.  You can’t necessarily rely on your friends and relatives either. They may mean well, but their body is not your body. And be careful about what you find on the internet. You know what they say…..if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Questions? Send me an email…


Every Day…..Say NO to Stroke!

AB Fraser, MD