When most Americans hear the term “dietary supplements,”
visions of infomercials and advertisements for diet and weight-loss products that are too good to be true may come to mind. The stigma that surrounds dietary supplements is not surprising, especially since a number of media outlets say that these supplements are risky, dangerous, useless, and largely unregulated.
In truth, many individuals — including those in the media — fail to realize that all supplements manufactured in the United States have been approved by the FDA. Additionally, most dietary and nutritional supplements have been backed by research that shows the efficacy of such products in regards to an individual’s health. Individuals who may need additional vitamin supplementation in their diets and who struggle with weight loss and other health problems may be able to benefit from dietary supplements.
The safety of dietary supplements
Before dietary and nutritional supplements hit the market, they are approved by the FDA, which verifies that the products meet industry and quality standards. Any manufacturers that do not comply with FDA regulation are either penalized, or shut down. The US Poison and Control Center has also made a statement that says there have been no deaths in the last 27 years as a result of consuming dietary and nutritional supplements.
Studies that challenge the efficacy of dietary supplements are flawed
Many studies that examine the efficacy and safety of dietary supplements are flawed as a result of being largely inconclusive. One study in particular conducted in July of 2013 concluded that fish oil supplements were linked to a higher risk for prostate cancer in men. However, the study authors failed to find out if men took fish oil supplements before or after developing prostate cancer, and if they took fish oil in supplement form or consumed fish oil from fish that contained high levels of mercury. Additionally, the study authors failed to take other risk factors into consideration, such as obesity, smoking, and alcohol abuse.
After the study results were released to the media, a separate group of researchers re-examined the study data. They found that 80 percent of the men involved in the study were overweight or obese, 60 percent abused alcohol, and over 50 percent were smokers — all of which are major risk factors for prostate cancer. Experts not involved with the original study learned that fish oil supplements were most likely not the triggering factor for prostate cancer.
Dietary supplements can help individuals battle weight gain while also boosting the body’s levels of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that work together to drive weight loss and regulate metabolism. Weight-loss surgery patients and individuals intent on losing weight should work closely with their health care providers to determine whether dietary supplements would benefit them based on their health and medical history.