Are Dietary Supplements Safe? A Comprehensive Guide

This article provides an overview of the potential health risks associated with taking dietary supplements. Learn about potential side effects and how to ensure that supplements are safe.

Are Dietary Supplements Safe? A Comprehensive Guide

In recent years, dietary supplements have become increasingly popular. People take them to improve their health, boost their energy levels, and even to treat certain medical conditions. But are there any health risks associated with taking supplements? The answer is yes. While some supplements can be beneficial, large doses of certain vitamins or minerals can be dangerous and even harmful.

For instance, the body cannot eliminate large doses of vitamin A. If taken in excess, it can reach toxic levels, which can damage organs and interfere with certain medications. Manufacturers can add vitamins, minerals and other supplement ingredients to the foods you eat, especially breakfast cereals and beverages. As a result, you may be consuming more of these ingredients than you think, and more may not be better. Taking more than you need costs more and may also increase the risk of side effects.

For example, too much vitamin A can cause headaches and liver damage, reduce bone strength, and cause birth defects. Too much iron causes nausea and vomiting and can damage the liver and other organs. You can share this record with your healthcare providers to discuss what is best for your overall health. For many people, a healthy lifestyle means more than following a good diet and getting enough exercise. Vitamins, supplements, and complementary nutritional products are also part of the plan.

Manufacturers may say, for example, that a supplement promotes health or supports a part or function of the body (such as heart health or the immune system). This fact sheet from the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) provides information that should not replace medical advice. Some supplements may increase the risk of bleeding or, if taken before surgery, may change the response to anesthesia. Tell your healthcare providers (including doctors, dentists, pharmacists, and dieticians) about any dietary supplements you are taking. In addition, dietary supplement packages are not required to include possible side effects, nor are there any rules on the maximum size of pills (an obvious risk for older people).

For more information on what constitutes a healthy eating routine, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPlate are good sources of information. Healthcare providers can also forget to ask patients about using natural or over-the-counter dietary supplements. If you think you've had an adverse reaction to a dietary supplement, tell your healthcare provider. Also, be careful when giving supplements to a child, unless recommended by your healthcare provider. In conclusion, while taking dietary supplements can be beneficial in some cases, it is important to remember that they can also pose certain health risks. It is best to consult with your healthcare provider before taking any supplement to ensure that it is safe for you.