What Is a Dietary Supplement?
Traditionally, dietary supplements referred to products made of one or more of the essential nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, and protein. But the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) broadens the definition to include, with some exceptions:
This includes vitamins; minerals; herbs, botanicals, and other plant-derived substances; and amino acids (the individual building blocks of protein) and concentrates, metabolites, constituents and extracts of these substances.
Dietary Supplements Labels
It's easy to spot a supplement because DSHEA requires manufacturers to include the words "dietary supplement" on product labels. Also, starting in March 1999, a "Supplement Facts" panel will be required on the labels of most dietary supplements.
Dietary Supplements are not Regulated Drugs
One thing dietary supplements are not is drugs. A drug, which sometimes can be derived from plants used as traditional medicines, is an article that, among other things, is intended to diagnose, cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent diseases. Before marketing, drugs must undergo clinical studies to determine their effectiveness, safety, possible interactions with other substances, and appropriate dosages, and FDA must review these data and authorize the drugs' use before they are marketed. FDA does not authorize or test dietary supplements.
A product sold as a dietary supplement and touted in its labeling as a new treatment or cure for a specific disease or condition would be considered an unauthorized - and thus illegal - drug. Labeling changes consistent with the provisions in DSHEA would be required to maintain the product's status as a dietary supplement.
Dietary Supplements are Not Diet Replacements
Another thing dietary supplements are not, are replacements for conventional diets, nutritionists say. Supplements do not provide the nutritional benefits of conventional food.
Dietary Supplements and Weight Loss
Some supplements claim to melt away fat or prevent it's absorption from food. Others claim to boost metabolism directly through stimulants or indirectly by boosting muscle mass. WATCH OUT!! These claims are not supported by any clinical evidence.
Manufacturers of dietary supplements do not have to prove that they are either safe or effective for weight loss or weight control. Ingredients may not be present in the proportions or quantities indicated on the label and the danger of overdose are real.
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NOTE: Before using any form of diet pills or weight loss supplements, please consult your doctor.
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