This article was reviewed and approved by the U.S. national Office of Dietary Supplements.


Many people take dietary supplements in an effort to be well and stay healthy. With so many dietary supplements available and so many claims made about their health benefits, how can a consumer decide what’s safe and effective? Let's make a general overview of dietary supplements, discuss safety considerations, and suggest sources for additional information.


Governmental regulations for dietary supplements are very different from those for prescription and over-the-counter drugs. For example, a dietary supplement manufacturer does not have to prove a product’s safety and effectiveness before it is marketed.
If you are thinking about using a dietary supplement, first get information on it from reliable sources. Keep in mind that dietary supplements may interact with medications or other dietary supplements and may contain ingredients not listed on the label.

Tell your health care providers about any complementary and alternative practices you use, including dietary supplements. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.


Dietary supplements were defined in a law passed by the U.S. Congress in 1994 called the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA). According to DSHEA, a dietary supplement is a product that:

** Is intended to supplement the diet
** Contains one or more dietary ingredients (including vitamins, minerals, herbs or other botanicals, amino acids, and certain other substances) or their constituents
** Is intended to be taken by mouth, in forms such as tablet, capsule, powder, softgel, gelcap, or liquid
** Is labeled as being a dietary supplement. Herbal supplements are one type of dietary supplement. An herb is a plant or plant part (such as leaves, flowers, or seeds) that is used for its flavor, scent, and/or therapeutic properties. Botanical is often used as a synonym for herb.

An herbal supplement may contain a single herb or mixtures of herbs.

Research has shown that some uses of dietary supplements are effective in preventing or treating diseases. For example, scientists have found that folic acid (a vitamin) prevents certain birth defects, and a regimen of vitamins and zinc can slow the progression of the age-related eye disease macular degeneration. Also, calcium and vitamin D supplements can be helpful in preventing and treating bone loss and osteoporosis (thinning of bone tissue).

Research has also produced some promising results suggesting that other dietary supplements may be helpful for other health conditions (e.g., omega-3 fatty acids for coronary disease), but in most cases, additional research is needed before firm conclusions can be drawn.


National governments usually regulate dietary supplements through a number of specialized institutions. In the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is in charge. In general, the regulations for dietary supplements areless strict than those for prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

A manufacturer is permitted to say that a dietary supplement addresses a nutrient deficiency, supports health, or is linked to a particular body function (e.g., immunity), if there is research to support the claim. Such a claim, in the U.S., must be followed by the words "This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease."

Manufacturers are expected to follow certain "good manufacturing practices" (GMPs) to ensure that dietary supplements are processed consistently and meet quality standards. Once a dietary supplement is on the market, the FDA monitors safety. If it finds a product to be unsafe, it can take action against the manufacturer and/or distributor, and may issue a warning or require that the product be removed from the marketplace. Also, once a dietary supplement is on the market, the FDA monitors product information, such as label claims and package inserts.

Some other institutions are responsible for regulating product advertising; it requires that all information be truthful and not misleading. In the past, in different countries, governments have taken legal actions against a number of dietary supplement promoters or Web sites that promote or sell dietary supplements because they have made false or deceptive statements about their products or because marketed products have provento be unsafe.


1. Look for reliable sources of information on dietary supplements so you can evaluate the claims that are made about them. The most reliable information on dietary supplements is based on the results of rigorous scientific testing.

2. Ask your health care providers. Even if they do not know about a specific dietary supplement, they may be able to access the latest medical guidance about its uses and risks.

3. Look for scientific research findings on the dietary supplement chiefly at governmental agencies, free publications, clearinghouses, and information on their Web sites.

4. Tell your health care providers about any complementary and alternative practices you use, including dietary supplements. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care. It is especially important to talk to your health care provider if you are thinking about replacing your regular medication with one or more dietary supplements.

5. Be careful if you are already taking any medications (whether prescription or over-the-counter), as some dietary supplements have been found to interact with medications.

6. Be extremely careful if you are planning to have surgery. Certain dietary supplements may increase the risk of bleeding or affect the response to anesthesia.

7. If you are pregnant or nursing a baby, or are considering giving a child a dietary supplement, remember that most dietary supplements have not been tested in pregnant women, nursing mothers, or children.


Keep in mind that although many dietary supplements (and some prescription drugs) come from natural sources, "natural" does not always mean "safe." It took years for me to discover, as a diabetic, an excellent dietary supplement that comply with all I said above. It is AyurGold, one of the herbal remedies being sold through the Web, very affordable and easy to get.

As an AyurGold user, I can report the following benefits (while following at the same time a balanced diet/exercise program and getting sufficient rest) of taking this supplement regularly:

++ Controlled blood sugar levels (no more insulin needed)
++ Increased vitality and energy.
++ Reduced urination frequency.
++ Better sleep and greater confidence.

Other users also report:

++ Diminished blurry vision and migraines.
++ Better appetite and well-being.
++ Quicker recovery time from tiredness and injury.

You may want to visit the India Herbs web site, to get complete information about AyurGold and other herbal supplements.

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