Dietary supplements: What to know before you buy

Dietary supplements: What to know

Using natural products to promote health is an age-old practice. Major cultures from Aztec to Celt to Han dynasty have used medicinal herbs and supplements to cure ills and increase well-being.

Even today, supplements are a popular form of health enhancement, including within the United States. Recent data show that roughly one of every two Americans has used a dietary supplement at some point, a figure that has grown steadily over the past three to four decades. Of those who take supplements, almost 80 percent do so daily. Multivitamin or mineral supplements are the most popular. Other natural products that are commonly used include fish oil, glucosamine, probiotics, and a variety of herb and plant extracts.

People take supplements because they believe doing so will help them be healthier. They trust that a supplemental amount of a vitamin, mineral or herb will help prevent or improve illnesses, including arthritis, osteoporosis, infections, immune system problems and even the common cold.

Along with potential benefits, supplements also can carry risks, and some can be dangerous. Problems may arise when people have perceptions such as "If it's natural, it must be safe" or "If a little is good for you, a lot must be great." Indiscriminate use of supplements can pose health risks. For instance, use of an herbal extract without proper information and monitoring by a health care provider can be unsafe.

That said, some supplements have indeed proved helpful, especially when used in conjunction with modern medicine. While supplements can't replace a balanced diet or other healthy behaviors, they can be part of an overall wellness plan, if used wisely.

When it comes to taking dietary supplements, it's crucial to be an educated consumer. Know specifically why you're taking a supplement and how it should help you. Ask your health care provider or pharmacist for help choosing a supplement that best suits your needs. And learn how to discern labels and determine which products are most likely to be of high quality.

July 02, 2019 See more In-depth

See also

  1. Add flax to your baking
  2. Are you getting enough calcium?
  3. Calcium: Building better bones
  4. Calcium
  5. Calcium supplements for men
  6. Timing calcium supplements
  7. Can low vitamin D cause high blood pressure?
  8. Can vitamins help prevent a heart attack?
  9. Can zinc supplements help treat hidradenitis suppurativa?
  10. Dietary supplements: Skip megadoses
  11. Vitamin C and mood
  12. Eye vitamins: Can they prevent or treat glaucoma?
  13. Fiber supplements
  14. Flaxseed best when ground
  15. Flaxseed for breakfast?
  16. Ground flaxseed
  17. Heartburn medicines and B-12 deficiency
  18. Herbal supplements
  19. Integrative medicine: Different techniques, one goal
  20. Kratom and pregnancy: Not a safe mix
  21. Multivitamins for kids
  22. Nutrition: Does it come in a pill?
  23. Nutrition know-how: Why whole food counts
  24. Percent Daily Value
  25. Prebiotics, probiotics and your health
  26. Prenatal vitamins
  27. Magnesium supplements
  28. Nutritional supplements
  29. Are dietary supplements right for you?
  30. Bromelain
  31. Calories and nutrients to fuel sports performance
  32. Curcumin
  33. Is your dietary supplement safe?
  34. Melatonin
  35. Smart practices for healthy living
  36. Tips for staying supplement savvy
  37. What are omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil?
  38. What are probiotics?
  39. What are multivitamin/mineral dietary supplements?
  40. What is Boswellia?
  41. What is ginger?
  42. What is whey protein?
  43. Vitamin C megadoses
  44. Vitamin C: An essential nutrient
  45. Vitamin D and MS: Any connection?
  46. Vitamin D: Can it prevent Alzheimer's & dementia?
  47. Vitamin D deficiency
  48. Vitamin D: Essential with calcium
  49. Vitamin D for babies
  50. Vitamin D toxicity
  51. Vitamins for MS: Do supplements make a difference?
  52. Vitamins 101
  53. What does a 'seal of approval' mean?
  54. Wheatgrass