It’s hard to ignore the marketing claims insisting that there’s a supplement for everybody, whether you’re trying to address medical concerns, or just want to enhance your well-being.
Supplements appeal to our desire to choose for ourselves what we consume for health and wellness. In fact, most of us are making decisions about taking supplements on our own, rather than on the recommendation of a healthcare provider.
But an essential aspect of controlling your own healthcare is learning how to protect yourself against harmful products and potentially dangerous interactions between supplements and medications.
If you opt to take supplements of any kind, exercise your power of control by:
- understanding what we know and don’t know about supplements, and how supplements are (not) regulated
- getting your information from reliable, non-commercial sources
- staying up-to-date on announcements regarding harmful products
- avoiding harmful interactions by fully informing your healthcare provider about all the supplements you take
The following resources are provided to help you be a well-informed and safe consumer of supplements. However, please keep in mind:
The information provided by Scotch Plains Public Library and its employees does not imply medical recommendation, endorsement or approval. Information from these sources are intended for use as general information. All consumer health information should be reviewed with your health care professional for clarification about how this information may or may not apply to your unique clinical situation or overall health.
Start with these resources to help you make well-informed decisions about using supplements:
What do we know about specific dietary supplement ingredients and COVID-19?
This excellent overview from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health covers what we know and don’t know about the safety and effectiveness of supplements. Sign up to get dietary supplement updates by e-mail!
Questions about the use, purchase, and regulation of supplements are answered by the NIH’s Office of Dietary Supplements. Included are links to independent organizations that perform quality tests to certify that products contain what their labels say they do, although this does not ensure the safety of any product.
Use these resources to understand how supplements, unlike drugs, are considered safe until proven unsafe:
Supplements can legally be placed on the market without undergoing the safety testing that is required for prescription drugs! Read this important summary from the FDA on what you need to know to help protect yourself.
Remember, the FDA can only act after the discovery of contamination, allergens, and fraud in products.
This overview from the American Cancer Society highlights the different ways drugs and supplements are treated and provides cautionary tales of products found to be harmful or contaminated.
Don’t rely on advertising claims when considering supplements! Use these resources to find unbiased information:
From the National Library of Medicine‘s MedlinePlus: Browse or search this extensive list of dietary supplements and herbal remedies to learn about their effectiveness, usual dosage, and potential interactions.
From the National Institutes of Health: this resource provides the full label information for dietary supplement products marketed in the U.S. Search by products, ingredients, or manufacturers.
From Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: this database offers guidance for the public and healthcare professionals on using common herbs and other dietary supplements. Covers: traditional and proven uses; potential benefits; possible adverse effects; and interactions with other herbs or medicines
From the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, use this app while you are shopping for herbal products to find information on the science and safety of popular herbs.
Check these resources to stay up-to-date on newly-reported issues.
Check here for notices from the FDA and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for updates on recalls and tainted products.
Use the Filter’s drop down menu to select ‘Dietary Supplements.’
From the FDA: “Consumers may wish to avoid purchasing or consuming dietary supplements that include these ingredients.” (Click on the arrow next to each ingredient name to see common synonyms). You may sign up for email updates to the Dietary Supplement Ingredient Advisory List.
Use these resources to inform yourself about the potential for interactions-but remember that healthcare providers have access to professional databases with more accurate and extensive information:
This resource from the American Academy of Family Physicians provides a good summary of how your medications, vitamins, and supplements can all interact, and a list of simple questions to ask your doctor that will help ensure your safety.
This database includes supplements as well as prescription and non-prescription drugs; while it is a commercial site and does display ads, it provides documentation for the sources of all information provided.
This database from the Allen Institute for AI uses artificial intelligence to search over 20 million published academic research articles for mentions of potential interactions. It is recommended as “way to start a conversation with a health provider.”
Use these resource to search for academic research articles related to supplements. Contact us with questions about getting the full-text of an article if needed:
Search for this NIH database for information from a broad range of dietary supplement literature.