It’s tough to ferret out facts on vitamins and supplements

Published 5:21 pm Friday, November 15, 2019


Community columnist

With no federal standards, the market for vitamins and supplements can be misleading.

Email newsletter signup

We all want to live longer, be healthier and reduce our risk of chronic diseases. In some cases, that leads us to purchase dietary supplements, which can claim to do all of these things. One important thing to remember is that they are full of claims. What are you actually getting? You should consider several things before purchasing and consuming a new supplement.

The level of scientific research to support marketing claims for supplements vary greatly depending on the product. Many supplement-related research studies were conducted on animals, but scientists do not have enough reliable research data to determine the impact dietary supplements have on humans. Many have not been tested in pregnant women, women who are nursing or children.

The manufacturing and distribution of dietary supplements are not as closely monitored by the Food and Drug Administration as prescription drugs. As a result, there is no set federal standard for supplement manufacturing and distribution. Yes, you read that correctly. Dietary supplements are very loosely regulated. Any supplement you purchase may be very different than the product that was used in research studies.

Companies must provide evidence that their dietary supplements are safe to use and product labels must be truthful and not misleading. Supplement labels cannot claim that the product will diagnose, treat, cure or lessen the effects of or prevent any disease. It is difficult to know by looking at the label if the claim is supported by science or evaluated by the FDA. This is where understanding the label terminology can be tricky but is extremely important.

Let your health care providers, dentist, pharmacist, eye doctor and any other medical professionals know if you are taking a supplement of any kind, as these could adversely interact with some prescription drugs.

Seriously — and I cannot stress this enough — talk with your doctor and health care providers about all medications you’re taking. Consult your health care providers before starting or stopping any prescriptions or supplements you may be or consider taking.

More information on nutrition-related topics is available at the Boyle County Extension office. Feel free to email me at