Welcome to Part 3! We covered the FDA and cosmetics along with the terms ‘regulate’ and approve’ (that was Part 1). Then, we covered the FDA and essential oils (that was Part 2). Now, we’re going to cover the FDA and dietary supplements.
Dietary supplements technically fall under the FDA’s category of food so their Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) oversees them.
The FDA definition of a dietary supplement is a product taken by mouth that is intended to supplement the diet and that contains one or more “dietary ingredients” that may include:
- herbs or other botanicals
- amino acids
- other substances found in the human diet, such as enzymes
This includes supplements in all forms like tablets, capsules, softgels, gelcaps, liquids, or powders.
I already sort of gave you a hint, but do you think the FDA approves, regulates, or both with regards to dietary supplements?
Answer: Regulates. Dietary supplements do not require approval from the FDA.
But, if you’ve read the first two posts you know there has to be a twist, right? There is.
If a dietary supplement meets the definition of a drug, then the FDA views it as a drug. BUT, dietary supplements don’t get approved like drugs, remember? Here’s the twist. It means if the supplement is being marketed as a treatment, prevention or cure for a specific disease or condition the FDA would consider it an unapproved, illegal, drug.
Alas, there seems to be a thin line here.
I don’t want to necessarily say that dietary supplements can be a treatment, prevention, or cure for a specific disease, but what about a disease like rickets, which is caused by a lack of vitamin D, calcium, or phosphate? Or what about iron deficiency, where the treatment is sometimes iron supplements? And how about when high-dose IV vitamin C is given to patients as a treatment for infections, fatigue, and cancers, including breast cancer?
Supplements in some shape or form seem to be able to serve as some type of “treatment” to some conditions.
Regarding the safety of dietary supplements, they are very similar to what we’ve already covered with cosmetics and essential oils. The manufacturers are responsible for making sure the ingredients are considered safe and they, too, do not have to disclose to the FDA, or us for that matter, the safety information about their products.
Are you starting to notice a trend yet?
This is normally the part when I say make sure you read your labels just like you would for cosmetics and essential oils, right? Well, in the case of dietary supplements it’s actually not quite as easy.
Unfortunately, reading the labels for dietary supplements don’t really mean 100% safe as sometimes they either don’t contain the specified amounts of ingredients they stated on the label or they’re tainted with dangerous ingredients that are purposely left off of the label.
There have been as many as 300 products, including weight loss and body building supplements, that have been found to contain active ingredients of marketed drugs or other compounds like synthetic steroids and pesticides. Here is a list of just some of the tainted products found.
The use of such terms like ‘quick’, ‘natural’, ‘herbal’, ‘FDA approved’, ‘magic’, ‘instant’, ‘guaranteed’ and other similar wording are used to entice you to try the product. Don’t let these terms fool you. Some of these terms are HUGE red flags.
Becoming familiar with certain manufacturers will help you determine the best supplements for you.
Note: No matter how well you know the manufacturer or read in between the lines on your labels there are still some supplements that could cause harm even when they are actually legitimate. This is even more of a reason to choose and use them correctly. You can follow very helpful, yet simple, tips from Consumer Reports and the American Cancer Society.
What do you really know about your dietary supplements?
To learn more about the FDA and the regulations of our food & products check out my FREE workshop.
Stephanie Smith says
It’s important do to the research before buying something, especially dietary supplements. A good example of what not to do can be found with the companies advertising rapid weight loss with just a pill. People don’t want to make a lifestyle change, so they buy it and hope it works, and end up wasting their money. Always do your homework!
Very true indeed Stephanie.