These basic facts about dietary supplements will help you better understand the dietary supplement industry.
What is a dietary supplement?
The term "dietary supplement" was defined by the United States Congress in the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994. DSHEA defines a dietary supplement as a product that is ingested, is intended to supplement the diet, and contains one or more "dietary ingredients."
Dietary ingredients may include vitamins, minerals, herbs and amino acids, as well as substances such as concentrates, metabolites, extracts and enzymes. Dietary supplements can come in many forms, such as tablets, capsules, liquids, powders and bars.
How are dietary supplements regulated?
In the United States, dietary supplements are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA regulates dietary supplements under a different set of regulations than those covering foods and drug products (prescription and over-the-counter).
Generally, dietary supplement companies do not need to get FDA approval before producing or selling their products. Under DSHEA, dietary supplement companies have sole responsibility for the safety and efficacy of the products they put on the market. They're also responsible for ensuring that any product information, such as what's on a product's label and packaging, is accurate.
The FDA is responsible for taking action against dietary supplement products that are found to be unsafe after they reach the market. The FDA can also take action when a supplement's product information is found to be misleading or deceptive. Dietary supplement advertising is regulated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
The FDA has established good manufacturing practices (GMPs) for dietary supplements. These GMPs are intended to try and ensure that dietary supplements are produced in a quality manner, do not contain contaminants or impurities, and are accurately labeled and packaged. However, it's still left up to the dietary supplement companies to follow these GMPs.
The reality is that the FDA and the FTC don't have enough resources to adequately regulate the multitude of different dietary supplements on the market and all of the advertising that's used to promote them.
This means that you have to be a cautious consumer when shopping for dietary supplements. You have to be wary of all the marketing hype and deceptive advertising that surrounds the dietary supplement industry. Make sure that any dietary supplements you purchase come from a reputable company with a track record of producing high quality products.
What are the primary types of dietary supplements?
Vitamin Supplements - Vitamins are organic substances that the body needs to function properly. Vitamins help the body develop, grow and stay healthy. They strengthen the immune system, assist in forming bone and tissue, regulate metabolism, help convert fats and carbohydrates into energy, and protect cells against the effects of free radicals. With the exception of vitamin D, the body can't produce vitamins, so they must be obtained from food or dietary supplements.
Mineral Supplements - Minerals are inorganic substances that the body needs to function properly. Minerals are essential for a wide range of vital processes, from basic bone formation to the normal functioning of the heart and the digestive system. A number of minerals have been linked to the prevention of cancer, osteoporosis and other chronic illnesses. The body is not able to produce minerals, so they must be obtained from food or dietary supplements.
Herbal Supplements - Herbal supplements contain herbs, either singly or in mixtures. An herb is a plant or plant part used for its flavor, scent or potential therapeutic properties. Many herbal supplements have a long history of use and health benefits, but herbal supplements can act in the same way as drugs and can cause health problems in some users.
Other Supplements - There are many dietary supplements, such as amino acids, enzymes, proteins and essential fatty acids, that are not considered vitamin, mineral or herbal supplements. These other supplements are used for a variety of reasons, such as to aid digestion, to strengthen the immune system, to build muscle, and to protect against certain diseases.
In conclusion, I hope that these basic facts about dietary supplements have given you a better understanding of what can sometimes be a confusing topic.
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