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Particular risks for specific population groups Despite having a role in the health of some individuals, not all supplements are useful for everybody. In fact, for some people, it is not advisable to take certain supplements, in particular in high doses. Some studies show multivitamins can contribute to an increased risk of excessive nutrient intakes, and it has been suggested that multivitamins should be formulated with greater consideration for the intakes of micronutrients from foods.

For pregnant woman, for example, supplements containing vitamin A retinol including fish liver oil may be harmful and cause birth defects if the recommended dose is greatly exceeded, or exceeded over an extended period of time.

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Studies have also highlighted that smokers should be wary of some supplements, in particular high doses of beta-carotene. Some population groups are advised to take specific supplements.


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The overall message is: follow a healthy, balanced diet, carefully read labels of supplements and fortified foods, and avoid taking multiple doses that exceed the Recommended Daily Amounts RDAs. In case of doubt, seek advice from a dietitian or medical doctor before choosing a dietary supplement. View All. Last Updated : 12 April There are numerous food supplements on the market, but whom are they for? What are food suplements? Examples of population groups requiring specific advice about supplements Population group Nutrients People over age 50 Vitamin D, Vitamin B 12 , folate Frail elderly may benefit from a low-dose multivitamin supplement.

Women of childbearing age Folic acid and vitamin D, possibly iron Children under age 5 Vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, although children with a good appetite who eat a wide variety of food may not need them.

Breastfeeding women Vitamin D People who cover their skin, are dark-skinned, or are housebound Vitamin D Vegans Vitamin B 12, vitamin D 2 Particular risks for specific population groups Despite having a role in the health of some individuals, not all supplements are useful for everybody. Interested in our quarterly newsletter? English French German Spanish Italian. Popular reads 8 Facts about Fats Do you know how to find reliable information online?

Dietary Supplements

The Functions of Carbohydrates in the Body. Some supplement ingredients have been tested in animal or human studies. For example, folic acid has been shown in studies to reduce the risk of birth defects in pregnant women. However, other supplement ingredients haven't been studied well, or at all. The U. Food and Drug Administration FDA does regulate dietary supplements ; however, it treats them like foods rather than medications. Manufacturers are required to follow "good manufacturing practices" GMPs , which means their supplements have to meet certain quality standards.

However, it has been found that some products may contain more or less of the ingredient than is stated on the label.

Nutrition Supplement

Or, in some cases they may contain ingredients not listed on the label, including prescription drugs. To be sure you're getting a good-quality product, look for a seal of approval from an organization that tests supplements such as the U. Products that carry these organizations' seal must be manufactured properly, contain the ingredients listed on the label, and not include any harmful contaminants. You can also call the product's manufacturer to find out what research they've done to confirm the supplement's benefits, what production standards they use, and what side effects have been reported from their product.

Find out if the supplement hasn't been recalled, by checking the FDA's web site.

Supplement makers are not allowed to claim their product diagnoses, treats, cures, reduces the symptoms of, or prevents disease -- and there needs to be a disclaimer statement to that effect on the label. Look for overblown claims on the label or box, such as "totally natural," "completely safe," or "miracle cure.

Nutritional Supplements ➤ What to Know About Supplements

Or, call the supplement manufacturer and ask them what studies they've done to support the claims they're making. Not in the way it regulates medicines.

Can I take supplements on my own, without a doctor?

The FDA does regulate dietary supplements; however, it treats them like foods rather than medications. It is usually a term that refers to extracts from plants herbal medicines , which contain a specific percentage of active ingredient s. A "proprietary blend" is a combination of ingredients used exclusively by one supplement manufacturer. No other company produces the exact same combination of ingredients, and, in most cases, it is difficult to know from the label the exact amounts of each of the ingredients in that blend.

Recommended Dietary Allowance RDA is the amount of a certain nutrient you should get each day based on your age, gender, and whether you are pregnant or breastfeeding. On a supplement label, you're more likely to see the acronym DV, which stands for Daily Value.

This represents how much of a nutrient the supplement provides in regards to a total daily diet. In many cases, there is no DV for a supplement, so the label will reflect that.

Check with your doctor to make sure your supplement doesn't contain too much of any nutrient.