Minerals, botanical products, botanical compounds, and amino acids are all types of food supplements that are available to adults and children in the United States. Dietary supplements come in a variety of forms, including tablets, capsules, gummies, powders, energy drinks, and bars. Popular supplements include vitamins D and B12; minerals such as calcium and iron; herbs such as echinacea and garlic; and products such as glucosamine, probiotics, and fish oils. A dietary supplement is a manufactured product intended to supplement the diet by taking a pill, capsule, tablet, powder, or liquid.
A supplement can provide nutrients extracted from food or synthetic sources to increase the amount of your intake. The class of nutritional compounds includes vitamins, minerals, fiber, fatty acids, and amino acids. Dietary supplements may also contain substances that have not been confirmed to be essential for life but are marketed as having a beneficial biological effect, such as plant pigments or polyphenols. Animals can also be a source of supplement ingredients, such as collagen from chickens or fish. The European Commission has established harmonized standards to help ensure that food supplements are safe and properly labeled.
The Institute of Medicine sets tolerable maximum intake levels (UL) for some of the vitamins. This does not prevent dietary supplement companies from selling products with a higher content per serving than UL. For example, the UL for vitamin D is 100 µg (4000 IU), but the products are available without a prescription at 10,000 IU. Minerals are the exogenous chemical elements that are indispensable for life. Four minerals (carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen) are essential for life but they are so present in food and beverages that they are not considered nutrients and their intake as minerals is not recommended.
The need for nitrogen is addressed by the requirements established for protein which is composed of nitrogen-containing amino acids. Sulfur is essential but for humans it has not been identified as having a recommended intake per se. Instead, the recommended intakes of the sulfur-containing amino acids methionine and cysteine are identified. There are dietary supplements that provide sulfur such as taurine and methylsulphonylmethane. The essential nutritional minerals for humans listed in order of weight to meet the recommended dietary quantity or adequate intake are potassium, chlorine, sodium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc, manganese, copper, iodine, chromium molybdenum selenium and cobalt (the latter as a component of vitamin B1).
There are other minerals that are essential for some plants and animals but may or may not be essential for humans such as boron and silicon. Essential and supposedly essential minerals are marketed as dietary supplements individually and in combination with vitamins and other minerals. These statements should be followed by the following words: “This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration”. Most European countries agree that messages aimed at the general public should focus on food-based dietary guidelines. In addition dietary supplements should not include chemical compounds that have been approved as drugs or authorized as biological products unless the compound was previously marketed as a dietary supplement or food. In addition research on a dietary supplement cannot be approved or authorized as a new drug antibiotic or biological product unless it was marketed as a food or dietary supplement before such approval or authorization.
Although the ingredients in supplements may have health benefits or occasional unwanted side effects unlike medications their safety or effectiveness are not evaluated before they are released to the market. In some countries (such as the United Kingdom Ireland the Netherlands and Sweden) there are already recommendations for certain groups of the population to take a vitamin D supplement although more research is needed. In other countries the definition of dietary supplement may or may not be as inclusive as that adopted in the United States. Energy bars are food-based supplements that provide varying amounts of carbohydrates proteins and fats as a source of calories for energy. The test involves looking for fragments of DNA from plants called dietary supplement ingredients in products. In accordance with the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act and related legislation the FDA has the authority to monitor the quality of substances sold as food in the United States and to monitor the claims contained on labels about the composition and health benefits of foods. Be careful when taking dietary supplements beyond a standard prenatal supplement if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is governed by several statutes enacted by the United States Congress.