Most people are misinformed about the extent of government regulation of vitamins, minerals and food supplements, according to a National Harris Interactive Survey.
Commonly held misperceptions
Supplements must be approved by a government agency such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
Manufacturers are prohibited from making claims for the safety and effectiveness of their products unless the claims are supported by solid scientific evidence
Manufactures must include warnings about potential side effects or other risks associated with the use of their products
Here and here are the facts. In 1994, Congress passed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), which set regulatory standards of dietary supplements used for medical benefit. Dietary supplements include vitamins, minerals, herbs or other botanicals, amino acids, or dietary substances.
Under DSHEA, manufacturers are not required to prove the health benefits of their products. Herbal manufacturers can make three types of claims without FDA approval: (1) nutrient content claims, (2) nutrient support or structure-function claims, and (3) health claims.
The good news is that DSHEA facilitated consumer access to more supplements. The bad news is that many of these products lack the scientific evidence and regulatory oversight to back up their claims. Worse, most people don’t know the difference.
John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at www.Vicus.com, a complementary and alternative medicine website.