Choosing and using supplements

If you decide to take a vitamin or mineral supplement, it's important to:

  • Talk to your doctor. Supplements can cause harmful effects if taken in certain combinations, with certain prescription medications or before surgery or other medical procedures.
  • Check the label. Product labels can tell you what the active ingredient or ingredients are, which nutrients are included, the serving size and the amount of nutrients in each serving.
  • Watch what you eat. Vitamins and minerals are being added to a growing number of foods, including breakfast cereals and beverages. If you're also taking supplements, you may be getting more than you realize of certain nutrients. Taking more than you need is expensive and can raise your risk of side effects.
  • Avoid megadoses. Taking more than the recommended daily values (DVs) can increase your risk of side effects. Children are especially vulnerable to overdoses of vitamins and minerals.

Keep up with supplement safety alerts

Being sold in the marketplace doesn't make a supplement safe or effective.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) keeps a list of dietary supplements that are under regulatory review or that have been reported to cause adverse effects. If you're taking a supplement, it's a good idea to check the FDA website periodically for updates.

Keep in mind, though, that the FDA doesn't regulate or oversee vitamin and supplement content or claims to the same degree as it does prescription medications.

If you think that a dietary supplement may have caused you to have a serious reaction or illness, stop using the product and fill out a safety report through the Safety Reporting Portal website.

Oct. 25, 2017 See more In-depth