Buyer Beware

by Louise June 7th, 2011 | Nutrition, Vitamins
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5 Things You Should Know Before Buying Supplements

Buying dietary supplements has become increasingly popular over the last few years. People are looking to self-medicate with alternatives to prescription medications, trying to avoid a trip to the doctor by tackling symptoms with dietary supplements. There are hundreds of different types of supplements available at your local pharmacy. Many of them make claims about leading to fantastic improvements in your health. Are these labels telling the truth?

Here are a few words of caution for consumers:

  1. “Federal law does not require dietary supplements to be proven safe to FDA’s satisfaction before they are marketed.” Scary, right? This is straight from the FDA’s Web site.
  2. Along the same lines, there is no law that requires the manufacturer or seller to prove to the “FDA’s satisfaction” that the claims made on their labels are accurate or truthful before they hit the market. After a product has been formally introduced to the market, only then can the FDA step in and begin to take action if necessary and only “as resources permit.”
  3. It is not legal for companies to market a dietary supplement product as a treatment or cure for a specific disease, or to alleviate the symptoms of a disease. If you see this is the case, you should not trust the product, especially if it claims to be a cure-all.
  4. Realize that the term “natural” in relation to a product does not ensure that the product is safe or in any way better than the synthetic form of the supplement.
  5. A potion for perfect health that was discovered overnight is impossible. Be wary about “super vitamins.” Remember that many claims made by the companies selling the supplements are based off small, singular studies. Solid health advice can only be a result of research that has been done over time.

The food-health industry functions much like the fashion industry; this should be a somewhat troubling thought to consider. What might be touted as a cure-all today will probably seem ridiculous 10 years from now. This is not to say that no supplements should be used or trusted. Daily multivitamins have had a clean record for many years now, and doctors often recommend crystalline B12 supplements for those over 50 (who have trouble absorbing B12 in its natural form). The bottom line: consult a health care professional before adding a supplement to your diet.

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All health and medical information is provided for educational purposes and is not meant to replace the medical advice or treatment of your healthcare professional.