Dietary Supplements: Benefits, Risks, Regulation, and Safe Usage

by James

Updated March 1, 2024


A whopping 74% of American adults use dietary supplements. That’s according to the CRN 2023 Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements. More than half of these, 55%, are regular users, and almost all of the users, 92%, believe dietary supplements are crucial in maintaining their health.

But are dietary supplements all healthy, or can they have undesirable side effects?

Dietary supplements used for decades are well understood and established and, therefore, considered safe for consumers. Instead, newer supplements require more testing to determine if they are safe and effective.

Whichever of the two categories, the rule of thumb is that consumers should consult with their doctors or healthcare providers before using dietary supplements. Consulting with a medical professional will help keep a safe balance between food-derived nutritional requirements and those from dietary supplements.

Before discussing the crucial facts about dietary supplement usage, the benefits and risks, let’s establish first what they are.

What are Dietary Supplements?

Dietary supplements are non-food products that people use to complement the nutrients they get from food.

These supplements contain the same nutrients as those from food, like vitamins and minerals. However, some also have additives like herbs, enzymes, amino acids, and other ingredients.

Those who make dietary supplements market them in varied forms. They can come in tablets, powders, capsules, gel caps, softgels, and liquid solutions.

With numerous manufacturers in the dietary supplement market, the list of popular dietary supplements is also endless. Common types of dietary supplements include:
Minerals such as Calcium, Iron, Potassium, and Magnesium
Vitamins, including Multivitamins, Vitamins D, A, C, and B12.
Herbs and botanicals, including Garlic, Echinacea, Curcumin, St. John’s Wort, Green Tea, Saw Palmetto, and Ginkgo.
Glucosamine and other fish oil supplements.
Amino acids like Omega3, Glutamine, and Tryptophan.
Probiotics or live microbials.
So, how do these supplements help your health and well-being? That’s what we address in the next section.

Benefits of Dietary Supplements

Because they are not medical experts, manufacturers of dietary supplements are not allowed to market them as products that aid in the diagnosis, prevention, and cure of diseases and illnesses.

For this reason, these manufacturers cannot include preventative or curative disease claims like “prevents cancer” or “lowers cholesterol levels” on the labels.

Despite this marketing restriction, dietary supplements are associated with a range of health benefits, including:

Supporting your overall health.
Complementing dietary deficiencies for proper body function.
Reducing the risk of illness and disease/Boosting immunity.

You should note that many dietary supplements have inconclusive research outcomes. A good example is Glucosamine.

This dietary supplement is consumed widely in the United States to manage osteoarthritis. However, it still returns inconclusive research results that show insufficient improvement in osteoarthritis symptoms such as stiffness, pain, and physical function.

The point in all this is that, regardless of their benefits, you should never use dietary supplements as a replacement for food nutrients. Most importantly, avoid taking them as a replacement for proper medical attention.

Besides, as you will read in the next section, dietary supplements can also trigger some risks.

What are the Risks Associated with Dietary Supplements?

Dietary supplements have active ingredients that interact with body receptors or biological stimuli that aid in responding to the environment.

Such interaction can trigger strong biological reactions and physical changes, sometimes causing undesirable effects, like:
High or low blood pressure
Fast or irregular heartbeat
Gastrointestinal symptoms
Risks resulting from dietary supplements also arise from the following:
High dosage intake
Consuming several supplements simultaneously
Using dietary supplements as a replacement for medications
Additionally, some dietary supplements can have undesired effects, such as:
Interacting with other medications
Resistance to anesthesia
Excessive bleeding during surgical procedures
Modifying lab test results
And that’s not everything!

Because food manufacturers often add mineral and vitamin supplements to food products like beverages and breakfast cereals, additional dietary supplements can cause excessive intake. Over consuming dietary supplements comes with additional risks.
Below are examples of risks from excessive consumption of specific dietary supplements.
Excessive vitamin A intake can cause liver damage, headaches, weak bones, and birth defects
Too much vitamin K can compromise blood clotting
Surplus iron can damage the liver and cause nausea and vomiting
Taking too much of antioxidant vitamins like E and C can interact with some cancer chemotherapies, reducing their effectiveness
The herbal antidepressant St. John’s wort, can accelerate the breakdown of certain medications and lessen their effectiveness
To ensure your intake of dietary supplements does not harm your health or cause undesired effects, you should first talk to your doctor about what supplements are best and safe for you.

Also, desist from doing the following when taking dietary supplements:
Using multiple dietary supplements together
Replacing prescription drugs with supplements
Overdosing on mineral and vitamin supplements such as iron and vitamins D and A
Additionally, educate yourself and know all you can about the safe use of dietary supplements and ensure responsible dietary supplement intake at all times.

Safe and Responsible Use of Dietary Supplements

Ensuring the safe and responsible use of dietary supplements is crucial and requires a multifaceted approach.

For dietary supplement consumers, it is about educating oneself on the safety and quality control of dietary supplements, especially the ones that you consume. It also entails being a smart dietary supplement shopper and reporting any adverse effects from these products.

Let’s address these points one by one.

Dietary Supplement Quality and Safety Control

The FDA has the mandate of overseeing dietary supplements. However, it does not have the authority to review the safety and effectiveness of dietary supplements before they enter the market.

For this reason, dietary supplement manufacturers must ensure their products conform to set standards by:
Ensuring their products are safe before they market them
Reporting to the FDA if their products have new ingredients
Producing their dietary supplements under high health and hygienic standards, ensuring they have no impurities or contaminants
Labeling their products as per the current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP)
If dietary supplement manufacturers don’t follow these standards and their products are judged unsafe or have misleading labels, the FDA can take them off the market.
Besides, manufacturers must report any adverse effects resulting from their products.

Know About the Dietary Supplement You Are Taking

Dietary supplement packing standards and regulations require manufacturers to include their name, location, and contact details.

This way, consumers can check any information about the supplement with the manufacturer or authorized distributor. Queries to the manufacturer can be about claims on product labels or the effectiveness of the ingredients.

Always consider that terms used on dietary supplement labels may not always mean what they suggest. For example, “natural” and “herbal” do not always mean safe.
In addition:
Bear in mind the risk effects mentioned earlier and talk to your doctor before using dietary supplements
Inform your doctor if you are using dietary supplements before commencing any medical therapies
Consider that your doctor may not always remember to ask you if you are on any dietary supplement.

Be a Smart Dietary Supplement Shopper

Every dietary supplement user must know that not every manufacturer, distributor, or online seller is reliable.

So, to be on the safer side, prioritize non-commercial sites such as the FDA, USDA, and NIH. These will give you reliable information before shopping for dietary supplements.

Also, be especially cautious about dietary supplement labels that exaggerate the effects of the product. For example, stating that a dietary supplement has “no side effects” or is “absolutely safe” or discrediting similar products in favor of yours with statements like “works better than XXX”.

As a general rule, put your safety first when shopping for dietary supplements.

Report any Adverse Effects from Dietary Supplements

If you or a family member present adverse side effects from consuming a dietary supplement, take the following actions:
Stop consuming the dietary supplement immediately
Consult with your doctor about what you should do
Report the event to the FDA by contacting the Consumer Complaint Coordinator near you or sending a report through the Safety Reporting Portal
Even if you have doubts about whether the dietary supplement caused the adverse event, go ahead and report the incident.

As they say, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Summing It Up!

Many people consume dietary supplements to enhance their health and well-being, boost immunity, and make up for dietary insufficiencies.

If you regular user of dietary supplements, it is important to bear in mind that they can cause adverse effects when the active ingredients in these products interact with your body systems.

Unregulated dietary supplement usage can trigger negative effects such as headaches and gastrointestinal symptoms.

To reap the benefits of dietary supplements, educate yourself about the safety and effectiveness of what you consume. Most significantly, work with your doctor and report any adverse effects immediately.


1.Council for Responsible Nutrition. Three-quarters of Americans Take Dietary Supplements; Most Users Agree They are Essential to Maintaining Health, CRN Consumer Survey Finds
2.Harvard Health Publishing. Do glucosamine and chondroitin supplements actually work for arthritis? 
3.Vo, Nam Xuan, Ngan Nguyen Hoang Le, Trinh Dang Phuong Chu, Huong Lai Pham, Khang Xuan An Dinh, Uyen Thi Thuc Che, Thanh Thi Thanh Ngo, and Tien Thuy Bui. 2023. "Effectiveness and Safety of Glucosamine in Osteoarthritis: A Systematic Review" Pharmacy 11, no. 4: 117. 
4.Havard Health Publishing. Harmful effects of supplements can send you to the emergency department
5.National Institute of Health. Dietary Supplements: What You Need to Know
Article by
Hello,I'm James, an editor at BeWellFinder, where I'm dedicated to sharing my expertise to provide you with valuable insights.

Related Blogs

See All Posts
1 2 3 9

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join Now-Get 5% OFF

Or use code "BeWellFinder" at checkout to get 5% off your first order.
Copyright © 2024 Bewellfinder. All Rights Reserved.
Show Buttons
Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Hide Buttons
lockmagnifier linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram