FDA offers new help through the maze of dietary supplements
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration advises consumers to talk to their doctor, pharmacist, or other healthcare professional before deciding to purchase or use any dietary supplement. One reason for this recommendation is that some supplements might interact with medicines or other supplements.
On Thursday, FDA announced a new initiative called Supplement Your Knowledge, to help educate, inform, and broaden consumers, educators, and healthcare professionals’ understanding of dietary supplements.
More than half of all Americans take dietary supplements daily or on occasion. Supplement Your Knowledge resources will provide reliable information about the potential benefits and risks associated with dietary supplements, such as vitamins, minerals, and herbs, they may consume.
“Dietary supplements can be valuable to your health but taking some supplements can also involve health risks,” said Douglas Stearn, Deputy Director for Regulatory Affairs in the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.
“It’s important for consumers to have a comprehensive understanding of dietary supplements as well as the ability to identify and safely use supplements that are beneficial to their health, ‘Supplement Your Knowledge’ resources will help provide consumers and healthcare professionals with facts to make informed decisions when determining if they want to use or recommend dietary supplements.”
Millions of Americans take dietary supplements every day for a variety of reasons, whether recommended by their healthcare professional or on their own. The FDA says some supplements can help consumers meet their daily requirements of essential nutrients or help improve or maintain their overall health. But, the agency says, dietary supplements may also come with health risks, so it’s important to stay informed. As part of the FDA’s ongoing efforts to build awareness around dietary supplements the new program will help meet that goal.
Supplement Your Knowledge includes the following materials:
- For consumers: Public education videos and fact sheets with important information about dietary supplements, including how they are regulated and potential benefits and risks. These materials are also a helpful resource when talking to a physician, nurse, dietitian, pharmacist, or other healthcare professionals before taking a dietary supplement.
- For educators: Teenagers can be particularly vulnerable targets for misunderstanding what dietary supplements are, and they are often unaware of the potential benefits and adverse effects dietary supplements can have on their bodies. To help high school students evaluate the accuracy and credibility of information they may see and hear about dietary supplements, the FDA has developed Science and Our Food Supply: Examining Dietary Supplements (2021 Edition). This curriculum aligns with current national education standards and supports educators seeking Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) activities for their classrooms. This curriculum can be customized to science, health, and other related classes.
- For healthcare professionals: The FDA, in collaboration with the American Medical Association (AMA), has developed a continuing medical education (CME) program to help physicians and other healthcare professionals understand how dietary supplements are regulated, provide information to patients on their use, and recognize and report adverse events to the FDA. This free CME program includes three videos and companion education materials and is available on the FDA’s Healthcare Professionals website. Interested physicians can also access these materials at no cost and earn 1 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit on the AMA Ed HubExternal Link Disclaimer.
If a consumer thinks that a product might have caused a reaction or an illness, FDA says they should immediately stop using the product and contact their healthcare professional. The FDA also encourages consumers and healthcare professionals to report adverse reactions associated with FDA-regulated products to the agency using the Safety Reporting Portal.
Public health and safety regarding dietary supplement use are matters of great importance to the FDA. Supplement Your Knowledge is part of the agency’s plan of action to arm individuals with helpful information to make informed decisions about the use of dietary supplements. Help spread the word about this important initiative by using the FDA’s Dietary Supplements Social Media Toolkit and find additional information on dietary supplements at www.fda.gov/dietarysupplements.
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