Dietary supplements can be a great way to improve or maintain overall health, but they can also carry risks. It's important to understand the facts before deciding to take any dietary supplement. The FDA recommends that consumers talk to their doctor, pharmacist, or other health professional before using any dietary supplement. Products that contain hidden drugs are sometimes falsely marketed as dietary supplements, so it's important to consult with a health professional before taking any supplement.
Under the terms of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA), supplements with established ingredients (i.e., those that were sold in the United States before 1999) can be marketed without any evidence that they are effective or safe. Last July, the FDA proposed some rules to help it test new ingredients, but this plan doesn't go far enough according to Dr. Cohen, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. The FDA plan doesn't require companies to provide the FDA with unfavorable data (as required for applications for new drugs).
In collaboration with the American Medical Association (AMA), the FDA has created videos and complementary materials to educate health professionals and provide them with strategies to advise patients on dietary supplements. For example, some supplements may interact with medications or other supplements, so it's important to be aware of potential interactions. The dietary supplement industry is fighting the new FDA guidelines, as they claim they will be harmful to business. A dietary supplement is a product that is taken orally and that contains a dietary ingredient intended to supplement the diet.
Many people take supplements because they believe they are safer than medications (since they are “natural”) or work better. For example, some dietary supplements can help improve or maintain overall health and provide adequate amounts of essential nutrients that the body needs to function. In the case of new supplement ingredients, DSHEA requires manufacturers to submit evidence to the FDA that a new ingredient must be safe. Whatever their form, the DSHEA classifies dietary supplements (DS) into a special category within the general scope of food and, therefore, the FDA remains responsible for helping to regulate the industry, albeit playing a minor role.
In fact, in many cases, companies can legally introduce dietary supplements to the market without even notifying the FDA.