Dietary Supplements

A balanced diet is your best source for essential vitamins and minerals, but sometimes a dietary supplement is necessary. Your health care provider can help you determine what kind of supplement you need. Learn more about dietary supplements ›

Dietary Supplements: How Much Do You Need?

Many people know vitamins may help reduce the risk of some diseases. But not many know which vitamins they need or know how to determine if they're consuming sufficient quantities of needed nutrients.

"Although research has shown the benefits of vitamins and minerals in a healthful diet, the way to get these nutrients may not necessarily be in a vitamin or mineral supplement," says Bobby Montgomery, an exercise physiologist in Rowlett, Texas.

Often, you can consume the small amounts of vitamins and minerals you need by choosing a wide variety of foods.

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Vitamin Supplement Advice

When do you need a vitamin supplement? Some researchers say that a daily multivitamin may be a good idea for most adults, according to the Harvard School of Public Health.

That's not to say you should abandon good nutrition in your daily diet. If you eat a varied diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, you're likely to get all the vitamins and minerals that you need.

If you take a dietary supplement that focuses just on one or two nutrients, you may end up with too much of those nutrients, interfering with the absorption of other nutrients.

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Who Needs a Dietary Supplement?

We need vitamins to live. We also need certain minerals. Together, these substances, which are naturally found in food, help our bodies grow and function. At times, adding vitamins and minerals to your diet can give your body a boost. But supplements alone cannot provide all that you need to stay healthy.

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All About Herbal Supplements

Herbal supplements are products made from plants for use in the treatment and management of disease and certain medical conditions.

Many prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications also are made from plant derivatives, but these products contain only purified ingredients and are regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Herbal supplements may contain entire plants or plant parts; moreover, they are considered foods, not drugs, by the FDA and, therefore, are not subject to the same regulations as traditional medications.

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A Guide to Common Herbal Supplements

Here's a look at some of the more common medicinal herbs. Most herbs have not been thoroughly tested for effectiveness or interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs or foods. Products added to herbal preparations may also cause interactions. It is important to tell your health care providers about any herb or dietary supplement you are using.

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Using Herbal Supplements? Use Caution, Too

Herbal supplements have grown into a $19-billion-a-year industry used by 60 million Americans. If you're one of them, how can you find out if your supplement works, or if it's safe?

Under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, the FDA treats supplements as food. Unlike prescription and over-the-counter drugs, they can make it to market without proving purity, composition, effectiveness, or even safety. And they can stay there until the FDA proves them unsafe after reviewing complaints filed by doctors and consumers. This can—and does—take years.

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Your Guide to Dietary Supplements