Are Health Supplements Safe to Take? A Comprehensive Guide

When it comes to taking health supplements it's important to be careful. Learn more about supplement safety from this comprehensive guide.

Are Health Supplements Safe to Take? A Comprehensive Guide

When it comes to taking health supplements, it's important to be careful. Supplements can interact with other medications you're taking or pose risks if you have certain medical conditions. But for many people, vitamins, minerals, botanicals, and other supplements are part of a healthy lifestyle. So how do you know if they're safe?More than half of Americans take one or more dietary supplements daily or from time to time.

Common supplements include vitamins, minerals, and herbal products, also known as botanicals. People take these supplements to make sure they get enough essential nutrients and to maintain or improve their health. However, not everyone needs to take supplements. Some supplements can have side effects, especially if taken before surgery or with other medications. Supplements can also cause problems if you have certain health conditions.

In addition, the effects of many supplements have not been tested in children, pregnant women and other groups. Therefore, it's important to talk to your healthcare provider if you are thinking about taking dietary supplements. Dietary supplements are regulated by the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as food, not as drugs.

The label may indicate certain health benefits. However, unlike medications, supplements cannot claim to cure, treat, or prevent a disease. Evidence suggests that some supplements may improve health in different ways. The most popular nutritional supplements are multivitamins, calcium, and vitamins B, C and D. Calcium contributes to bone health and vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. Vitamins C and E are antioxidant molecules that prevent cell damage and help maintain health.

Women need iron during pregnancy and breastfed babies need vitamin D. Folic acid (400 micrograms daily), whether through supplements or fortified foods, is important for all women of child-bearing age. Vitamin B12 keeps nerves and blood cells healthy. Research suggests that fish oil may promote heart health. Of the supplements that aren't derived from vitamins and minerals, Hopp says “fish oil probably has the most scientific evidence to support its use”.

More studies are needed on the health effects of some other common supplements such as glucosamine (for joint pain) and herbal supplements such as echinacea (immune health) and flaxseed oil (digestion).Many supplements have mild effects with few risks. Vitamin K, for example, will reduce the ability of anticoagulants to work. St. John's Wort is sometimes used to relieve depression, anxiety, or nerve pain but it can also accelerate the breakdown of many medications such as antidepressants and birth control pills and make them less effective. Just because a supplement is promoted as “natural” doesn't necessarily mean it's safe.

The herbs comfrey and kava can seriously damage the liver. For vitamins and minerals check the % of the daily value (DV) of each nutrient to make sure you're not getting too much. Too much of certain supplements can be harmful. Scientists still have a lot to learn about common vitamins including unexpected evidence on vitamin E which suggests that men who took vitamin E supplements may have a lower risk of developing prostate cancer. Because supplements are regulated as foods not as drugs the FDA does not evaluate the quality of supplements or evaluate their effects on the body. If a product is found to be unsafe after it hits the market the FDA can restrict or prohibit its use. Manufacturers are also responsible for the purity of the product and must accurately list the ingredients and their quantities however there is no regulatory agency to ensure that the labels match what's on the bottles. You risk consuming less or sometimes more of the ingredients listed.

All of the ingredients may not even be on the list. Some independent organizations perform quality tests on supplements and offer stamps of approval. This does not guarantee that the product works or is safe; it only ensures that the product was manufactured correctly and contains the ingredients listed. The MyDS app provides the latest information on supplements and allows you to keep track of the vitamins minerals herbs and other products you take. You can even keep track of the supplements your parents spouse or children are taking. For many people a healthy lifestyle means more than following a good diet and getting enough exercise; vitamins supplements and complementary nutritional products are also part of the plan. Talk to your healthcare providers about the products you are interested in and decide together what is best for your overall health. A lack of knowledge about supplement risks can sometimes lead to potential problems so it's important to conduct clinical studies of supplements to confirm their effects. For more consumer health news and information visit health nih gov. This site includes fact sheets and videos on dietary supplements for the public educators and health professionals.

Darlene Flint
Darlene Flint

A blogger who covers about health supplements in depth and educating people before they start taking it.