Nutrition - Medical Dictionary


Dietary Supplements

Has your doctor told you that you need a dietary supplement to maintain your health?  Or have you heard that dietary supplements can be beneficial and have been considering taking one?  You should know a little about dietary supplements before you even consider taking them.

The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 says that for a product to be called a dietary supplement, it must first meet these requirements:

  • It is to supplement the diet and contains one of these ingredients:  a vitamin, a mineral, a herb, an amino acid, a dietary substance to supplement the diet by increasing the total daily intake, a product to be used as a meal replacement (such as an energy bar), or a metabolite, constituent, or extract.
  • It must be ingested in the form of a pill, capsule, tablet, or liquid.
  • It is not represented as if it can be used as a substitute for traditional food or as the only item to be used as a meal or diet.
  • It is properly labeled to read “dietary supplement.”


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sees dietary supplements as a form of food, not drugs.  What does this mean to you?  This means that the FDA does not pre-approve dietary supplements as it does drugs. Unlike drugs, which must go through rigorous testing before being approved by the FDA, dietary supplements are only pulled from the market after they are deemed unsafe.

Who is taking dietary supplements?  An estimated 187 million American adults take dietary supplements for various reasons, but a large number of those 65 and older are taking dietary supplements to help maintain their health.  Studies have shown that by senior citizens taking a dietary supplement of 1,200 milligrams of calcium with Vitamin D, they could reduce the changes of hip fractures.  Not only could this dietary supplement save senior citizens from going through the pain of a hip fracture, but it also saves them and their insurance company money as well.  Taking dietary supplements such as this can lead to senior citizens not only living longer, but also more independently.

Dietary supplements can help prevent many illnesses.  Individuals that, for whatever reason, have to undergo prolonged periods of bed rest can lose lean muscle as a result.  But, researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch and the Shriner’s Hospital for Children have found that taking a dietary supplement of essential amino acids can help reverse this affect.  Dietary supplements of selenium, Vitamin E, and tomato carotenoid lycopene may reduce the risk of prostate cancer in Caucasian males.

Many people, especially women, turn to dietary supplements in order to lose weight.  Supplements that contain bitter orange may increase the number of calories burned, which could lead to weight loss.  However, you should take caution when using dietary supplements for dieting.  Many contain other stimulants, such as caffeine, which can raise your blood pressure. 

Dietary supplements can help us lead healthier, longer lives, but only if taken properly.  You should consult your physician before taking any dietary supplements to make sure there won’t be any adverse side effects.

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