Are Dietary Supplements For You?

Although the dietary supplement market has received its share of criticism over the years, the demand for these products is still steadily growing. In 2013, sales reached $34.8 billion and the market was expected to continue its expansion. In recent years, the FDA has banned the use of class 1 drugs in dietary supplements, but manufacturers have frequently ignored this ruling. If you are contemplating taking dietary supplements, you first need to consider their safety and effectiveness.


The Food and Drug Administration is in charge of regulating supplements, but the guidelines are different than those for "conventional" food and drugs. The FDA is empowered to act against any "adulterated or misbranded" dietary supplement on the market. To keep these supplements safe for consumers, the FDA has adopted CGMP manufacturing (current good manufacturing practices) that include guidelines for quality control, cleaning, record maintenance, and product testing, all aimed at giving consumers a safe, pure product. The FDA recalled 274 supplements in the years 2009-2012, but not all manufacturers have honored this recall, leaving 66.7 percent of supplements still containing a banned substance. To use these products safely, you need to check the list of ingredients against the FDA's banned list.

Using Supplements Appropriately

The American Dietetic Association endorses supplements in certain situations but cautions that they cannot replace a healthy diet. Some people cannot get all the nutrition they need from their meals, so the ADA approves supplements for the following:

  • Senior citizens
  • Pregnant women
  • Nursing mothers
  • Vegetarians
  • People suffering from food intolerance or allergies

If you are a member of one of these groups, then supplements may be an appropriate choice for you.

Helpful Supplements

A daily multi-vitamin can be useful for you if you cannot get all your nutrients from food. People who eat poorly or who do not consume foods from the recommended groups can benefit from these vitamins. Powdered and canned meal replacements can be quite helpful for those who cannot get enough nutrition from their food due to certain medical conditions. Again, eating a healthy meal is best for anyone's nutrition, but these products are excellent for those who cannot manage to eat properly due to digestive disorders. They can also aid in healthy weight loss.  

Sports nutrition supplements are safe if used properly and have been shown to help athletes develop a small performance edge if taken consistently over a period of time. These supplements include protein formulas and amino acids. They will not turn an unfit person into an athlete, but they can help you prepare and recover from competitions.

FDA regulated supplements are safe for you to take if you follow directions and if you have reasonable expectations for their use. They are not miracle substances, but they have been shown to help you maintain good nutrition and to improve your body's performance. Nothing replaces eating a healthy, varied diet, but supplements can help fill the gaps in your daily nutrition intake, making your body stronger and healthier.