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What Is a Dietary Supplement?

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Melting Yellow Tablet in the Filled Drinking Glass

Many adults consume a vitamin pill or two every day. Sometimes, it’s out of habit because they’ve done it since they were little. Sometimes, it’s doctor-prescribed because of a nutritional deficiency. There are also supplements designed to help with specific issues like weight loss or heart health. If you’re prescribed a supplement for your health, try to learn all you can about it, but here are some general explanations.

Defining a Dietary Supplement

In 1994, Congress passed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, which officially defined supplements in the medical sector. According to their ruling, a dietary supplement is any product designed to accompany a diet and which contains dietary ingredients like vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and herbs.

To be called a supplement, it must also be taken orally as a pill, liquid, tablet, or capsule. Many also come in the form of a gummy, particularly children’s vitamins. Finally, a dietary supplement must be labeled as such on the front of the bottle to eliminate consumer confusion.

That same law also stipulates that manufacturers are not allowed to claim their products will treat, cure, or prevent disease. This was a practice for hundreds of years, giving consumers false hopes. Today’s vitamin bottles must be completely accurate in their labeling.

With that in mind, these tablets are sold online and in health food stores, grocery stores, drug stores, and fitness centers all over the world, and are meant to aid customers while they maintain a healthy mind and body. They can eliminate deficiencies in the body, provide you with more energy, promote muscle growth, boost weight loss, and more.

Types of Dietary Supplements

There are a few different kinds of dietary supplements. Some are meant as a nutritional aid and others are designed for more specific purposes. Here are the most common types:

Weight Loss: These include Ephedra pills, garcinia cambogia, Hydroxycut, Meratrim, glucomannan, green tea, and coffee, and they’re designed to help boost your metabolism, cut cravings, increase energy levels, and ultimately help you shed a few pounds.

Nutritional Deficiency: If you have a nutritional deficiency in something like sodium, iron, or potassium, your doctor may prescribe a supplement to fill the gap along with a recommendation that you eat more foods containing those nutrients.

Gender-Specific Multivitamins: Men and women need different nutrients to stay healthy. Some multivitamins are designed to be gender-specific to promote health by gender.

Prenatal Vitamins: Pregnant women have unique dietary needs to help grow a healthy fetus and stay healthy themselves. Prenatals have all the nutrients a woman needs as well as a few extra ingredients to help the baby, such as high levels of folic acid. If you’re pregnant, your doctor will recommend that you take prenatal vitamins daily.  

Know What You’re Buying

Most dietary supplements are not required to go through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for approval. They’re also not required to meet United States Pharmacopeia (USP) standards to ensure consistency across different manufacturers.

This makes it essential to do your research to ensure you’re getting a quality supplement. Learn the proper quantities of vitamins and minerals you should be taking for optimum health, and cross-reference that information with the label. You might also consider having your supplements tested professionally to determine their quality.

The FDA does periodically inspect most manufacturers of dietary supplements, so if you’re getting your vitamins through a reputable company, you can rest easier knowing you have a quality product.

Dietary supplements are a wonderful aid to help you maintain optimum health through nutrition. Eating healthy is important for getting the right nutrients, but supplements can bridge any remaining gap.