Sensible Advice About Vitamin Supplements

FDADevelop a vitamin strategy.  That’s the advice from the Food and Drug Adminstration. The main message in the agency’s new consumer education initiative is to focus on FOOD for your primary nutrient needs, then supplement wisely.

Dietary supplements may be beneficial for some people, but they are not substitutes for a healthful diet. You can learn more by visiting the FDA web site, which includes a downloadable copy of Fortify Your Knowledge About Vitamins.

The handout outlines the groups who are most likely to benefit from vitamin supplements:  people with certain health problems, vegetarians/vegans and pregnant/breastfeeding women.  The nutrients of concern include calcium, potassium, magnesium, fiber, and vitamins A, C and E.

Before you stock up on various supplements, consider these tips from FDA:

  • Don’t chase headlines. Sound health advice is generally based on research over time, not a single study touted by the media.  Be wary of results claiming a “quick fix” that departs from scientific research and established dietary guidance.
  • More is not better. Some products can be harmful when consumed in high amounts, for a long time, or in combination with certain other substances.
  • Learn to spot false claims. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  Watch out for quick and effective “cure all,” can treat or cure disease, “totally safe,” “all natural,” and has “definitely no side effects.”  Other red flags include claims about limited availability, offers of “no risk, money-back guarantee,” and requirements for advance payment.

Today’s dietary supplements are not only vitamins and minerals, they also include other less familiar substances such as herbals, botanicals, amino acids and enzymes, said Vasilios Frankos, director of FDA’s Division of Dietary Supplement Programs.  “Check with your health care providers before combining or substituting them with other foods or medicines.  Do not self-diagnose any health condition.  Work with your health care providers to determine how best to achieve optimal health.”

So true.  Here’s a video that recaps FDA’s campaign to Fortify Your Knowledge about Vitamins:

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