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Dietary Supplements

Dietary supplements, defined in a law passed by Congress in 1994, may contain vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids, or a combination of these items. These supplements can interact with prescribed or over-the-counter medicines, so talk to your doctor if you are considering taking them, especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

What Are Dietary Supplements?

Dietary supplements were defined in a law passed by Congress in 1994. A dietary supplement must meet all of the following conditions:
 
  • Dietary supplements are products (other than tobacco) intended to supplement the diet that contain one or more of the following: vitamins, minerals, herbs or other botanicals, amino acids, or any combination of these ingredients.
     
  • They are intended to be taken in tablet, capsule, powder, softgel, gelcap, or liquid form.
     
  • They are not represented for use as a conventional food or as a sole item of a meal.
     
  • They are labeled as being a "dietary supplement."
     

More Information About Dietary Supplements

Other important information about these products includes:
 
  • Dietary supplements are regulated as foods, not drugs -- there could be quality issues in the manufacturing process.
     
  • They can interact with prescribed or over-the-counter medicines and other supplements.
     
  • "Natural" does not necessarily mean "effective" or "safe."
     
  • Check with your healthcare provider before starting a dietary supplement, especially if you are pregnant or nursing, or before giving a dietary supplement to a child.
     
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