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How to Choose the Right Dietary Supplement

Up to 170 million Americans take some form of supplement like a multivitamin or mineral supplement, but there are no standard regulations when it comes to them and there can be long lists of ingredients with complicated names.

Dr. Christopher D'Adamo, the director of research for the University of Maryland’s Center for Integrative Medicine in Baltimore does clinical research on supplements. He teaches his students that a lot of time what’s on the label isn’t actually in the bottle.

“Supplements are not all created equally, and the price varies quite a bit, too,” he said.

Dietary supplements are regulated by the FDA but as a food, not a drug, which means there is little oversight on health claims and ingredients.

“How can a consumer make a good decision on which supplement to get? So, the first is to require that the product have third party lab verification for purity. So most supplements are safe. I think the bigger issue is that many supplements don’t contain in the bottle what it says on the label.”

In a statement to News4, the Council for Responsible Nutrition said, “Overwhelmingly, dietary supplements are safe and play a valuable role in helping the more than 170 million Americans who take supplements each year to live healthy lifestyles. The industry is regulated by FDA, and the robust regulations give the government the ability to remove unsafe products from the market. Mainstream dietary supplement companies are invested in ensuring product quality as they have a stake in their customers’ health, and so we recommend that consumers look for reputable brands and buy from trusted retail sources.”

One of the great resources for this is from the National Institutes of Health, their office of dietary supplements.

One of the main goals of D’Adamo’s seminars, which he holds regularly, is to educate consumers and give them the tools to research claims and questions. The NIH Office of Dietary Supplements website has fact sheets for consumers and health professionals, as well as the labels of all the supplements in the U.S., and it provides detailed information on ingredients and blends.

In addition to consumers, many of the people in D'Adamo's seminars are medical professionals hoping to learn more.

“All I know is about medications,” nursing student Maria Garay said. “They don't really give us any tips on dietary

Supplements, and when I ask my professors about those, they don't really know much.”

D’Adamo and the Council for Responsible Nutrition advise letting your doctor know what supplements you are taking and discussing with them what you learn.

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