June 22, 2022

FDA Starts Dietary Supplement Education Initiative

The FDA has started a Dietary Supplement Education Initiative to help consumers understand the risks and benefits of these products. The program, called Supplement Your Knowledge, offers fact sheets and educational material.

FDA Starts Dietary Supplement Education Initiative

More than half of Americans take dietary supplements. These products  are regulated by the FDA as food, not as drugs. The FDA does not approve these products before they are sold to consumers. The companies that make them are responsible for making sure they meet safety standards and do not violate the law. The FDA monitors adverse events reporting and can take action after complaints or injuries have been registered.

There have been many recalls of dietary supplements for the inclusion of unapproved drugs that can cause serious health problems. In 2017, Consumer Reports conducted a study that found that some supplements caused liver damage. More than 130 cases of liver damage were linked to these types of products.

Some supplements make false promises on their product labels. Those promises can include curing cancer and COVID-19, improving fertility, and treating diabetes and heart disease. Some dangerous ingredients that have ben found in some supplements include ephedra, lobelia, chaparral, and comfrey.

Douglas Stearn, Deputy Director for Regulatory Affairs in the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition said in a statement, “Dietary supplements can be valuable to your health but taking some supplements can also involve health risks. It’s important for consumers to have a comprehensive understanding about dietary supplements as well as the ability to identify and safely use supplements that are beneficial to their health. These 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.”

The new program offers public education videos, fact sheets, and a continuing medical education program for physicians. One targeted audience is teenagers, since they are often not aware of the possible adverse effects supplements can have on their health. The curriculum for teachers is in line with current national education standards.

The FDA does advise consumers to talk with their doctors or other healthcare providers before using any dietary supplement because these products might interfere with prescription medications that the patient is taking. It’s also important to take the supplements as the package directs, and to not use these products as substitutes for medical care.

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