What You Need to Know About Supplements

By: Erin Knepple, Registered Dietitian

Supplements are not regulated by the FDA like drugs are. What this means is the FDA does not test supplements on the shelf for quality, safety or effectiveness. There is no guarantee that what is on the supplement label is what is in the product. Scary? Yes. So how do you know if the supplement you are taking is safe? Look on the bottle for a label of NSF, Consumer Lab or USP. These three companies are third party companies that test supplements to ensure quality and safety.

Then there is another piece to that; effectiveness. Is the supplement you are taking, or wondering if you should take, really effective? Well, the simple answer is, probably not. Research indicates that "mega-doses" of most vitamin and mineral supplementation is ineffective. Most all of the vitamins and minerals that our bodies need come directly from the food that we eat. If you are eating a balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meat and low-fat dairy, you likely are getting all the nutrients that your body needs. Try making changes to your diet to reflect balanced eating before considering a vitamin or mineral. In the long run, it will enhance your quality of life, lower your risk of chronic disease and help maintain a healthy body weight.

Of course, they are exceptions to needing supplementation, such as when one or more of the food groups is eliminated; important nutrients may be missed as well. Additional exceptions are related to disease states that impacts nutrient status. If you are wanting to take a supplement; its always a good idea to talk to your Doctor or Registered Dietitian before beginning a supplement regimen.

If you are interested in learning more from Erin; or are considering outpatient services for nutrition, weight management, diabetes management, or other conditions, please call Pondera Medical Center and ask for Erin Knepple.