Dietary Supplements

What are dietary supplements?

Adding anything to your regular diet to improve your health or healing is considered a dietary supplement. Dietary supplements may include:

  • vitamins; minerals

  • herbs

  • homeopathic products other than homeopathic medications listed in the Homeopathic Pharmacopeia of the US

  • other products not considered drugs

Dietary supplements can be purchased at grocery stores, health food stores, and drug stores. Dietary supplements come in many forms:

  • pills

  • capsules

  • liquids

  • power bars

  • cookies

  • powders

  • elixirs

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) reports widespread use of vitamin supplements.

Besides multivitamins, many dietary supplements target special needs and age groups. However, all of a person's nutritional needs can be met by eating a balanced diet. Some people who may need special dietary supplements include:

  • pregnant or nursing women

  • young children

  • vegetarians

  • alcoholics

  • people who are ill or frail

  • postmenopausal women

Taking heavy doses of dietary supplements has not proven to be effective. In fact, it can be toxic. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) does not recommend supplementing the diet with vitamins and/or nutrients beyond the recommended daily allowances (RDAs). Always check with your physician before taking any dietary supplements.

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