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Dietary Supplements

What are dietary supplements?

Adding anything to your regular diet to improve your health or healing is considered a dietary supplement. Dietary supplements may include:

  • Vitamins

  • Minerals

  • Herbs

  • Homeopathic products other than homeopathic medicines listed in the Homeopathic Pharmacopeia of the U.S.

  • Certain food products

Dietary supplements can be purchased at grocery stores, health food stores, and drug stores. Dietary supplements come in many forms:

  • Pills

  • Capsules

  • Liquids

  • Power bars

  • Cookies

  • Powders

  • Elixirs

  • Teas

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey reports widespread use of vitamin supplements.

Besides multivitamins, many dietary supplements target special needs and age groups. However, all of a person's nutritional needs can be met by eating a balanced diet. Some people who may need special dietary supplements include:

  • Pregnant or nursing women

  • Young children

  • Vegetarians and vegans

  • Alcoholics

  • People who are ill or frail

  • Postmenopausal women

Taking heavy doses of dietary supplements has not proven to be effective. In fact, it can be toxic. The National Institutes of Health does not recommend supplementing the diet with vitamins and/or nutrients beyond the recommended daily allowances (RDAs). Always check with your doctor before taking any dietary supplements, particularly since some supplements may interfere with prescription medications you may be taking. 

Online Medical Reviewer: Averett, Jennifer, RD
Date Last Reviewed: 2/16/2013
© 2000-2014 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.