Olugbenga Obasanjo, MD, MPH, PhD, CPH


October 27, 2011

In This Article

Increasing Popularity of Dietary Supplements

The use of dietary supplements in the United States has steadily increased from less than 20% of the population in 1970 to approximately 50% at the time of the last survey conducted by the National Institutes of Health (2003-2006).[1] Individuals report using dietary supplements to increase energy, maintain strength, enhance performance, maintain health and immune system function, and prevent nutritional deficiencies.[2] Only 33.4% of individuals, however, inform their healthcare providers that they are taking herbal products and dietary supplements.[2]

Individuals who use dietary supplements believe that these products help them retain control of their own health. Patients typically believe that dietary supplements are not drugs and for that reason have fewer side effects than conventional medications. However, most consumers aren't aware that the health claims on labels intended for marketing purposes may not be accurate. Although dietary supplements are regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as foods, they are regulated differently from other foods and drugs.[2]

Whether a product is classified as a dietary supplement, conventional food, or drug depends on its intended use. Classification as a dietary supplement is usually determined by the information provided by the manufacturer on the product label or in accompanying literature, although many food and dietary supplement product labels lack these details.

The purpose of this article is to review the dietary supplement safety considerations about which providers should be aware in caring for their patients.


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