3 FACTS EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW ABOUT DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS

Don’t pop supplements in the name of convenience to get in your nutrients. When it comes to nutrition, make food a priority over pills.


BY: TAYLOR WOLFRAM, MS, RDN, LDN

You’ve likely seen headlines that Americans spend billions of dollars a year on dietary supplements that do nothing for them. Or you’ve seen articles promoting the latest miracle supplement that will take away all that ails you and leave you feeling super energized (and 10 pounds lighter). Or you’re getting hounded by friends and family (and strangers) in MLM schemes trying to sell you supplements. It’s likely you’ve experienced all of this.

So how do you separate fact from fiction in the world of supplements? Here are a few facts to always keep in mind.

1. Dietary supplements are not meant to replace food.

They are called supplements for a reason — they are to be used in addition to food, not in place of food. The synthetic nutrients in supplements may behave differently than the way nutrients in foods do, and often times, the combinations of food-based nutrients can lend a synergistic effect that is irreplaceable in supplements. Let’s not also forget to mention the lovely fiber and phytonutrients that come with whole foods.

And while it’s next to impossible to overdose on nutrients from food, it’s very possible to reach toxic levels from supplements. If you’re a generally healthy person, think “food first” before reaching for a supplement.

2. Using dietary supplements is an individual choice and requires a personalized approach.

Just because a supplement “worked” for your mom or your best friend doesn’t mean it will “work” for you, and vice versa. Many supplements have nasty interactions with other supplements and drugs, so safety is a real concern.

Before taking any supplements, discuss them with your physician or a nutrition professional to determine if and what supplements you may need (or not need).

3. Dietary supplements do not require FDA approval.

Unlike drugs, dietary supplement manufacturers have to submit zero evidence to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration before their product goes to market. Look closely at a dietary supplement package and you’ll likely see the phrase “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.”

Dietary supplement manufacturers are responsible for the composition and purity of their product.  Only after a product arrives in the market can it be investigated by the FDA, which typically happens after a complaint is made. Also keep in mind that there is currently no regulated definition of the term “natural”, so take what you see on a dietary supplement label with a grain of salt. Ultimately, it’s up to you, as the consumer, to assess the quality of supplement products.

While supplements definitely have a place with certain health conditions or dietary lifestyles to help cover potential nutrition gaps or reinforce certain ones, most people seek out supplements unnecessarily. Stay informed and talk with a health professional to determine your true needs.

Don’t pop a pill just because everyone else is.

Adapted from the original article.
HEADER IMAGE: NIEK VERLAAN

Taylor Wolfram, MS, RDN, LDN is Chicago-based Registered Dietitian who helps others lead a life of compassion that improves their overall relationship with food, exercise, and their bodies.  As an expert in eco-ethical and vegan lifestyles, she’s passionate about helping individuals end their struggle with food and live an unrestricted life in the kitchen. Learn more about Taylor at Whole Green Wellness.

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