What are health supplements? Health (herbal) supplements are natural products designed to bring one's physiology back into balance, health, and happiness.
Regulated by the FDA, they are generally considered safe, and can be taken by anyone (except breast-feeding womein, pregnant women, and children).
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Some people who don't use herbal supplements justify their decision not to by saying there is no regulation over the industry. In other words, they feel herbal supplements are valueless because the FDA doesn't regulate their contents as strictly as they do other foods. Many people don't realize, however, that the FDA does have oversight over dietary supplements. There have been several cases of the FDA taking action against a company for making false claims about their supplements.
The FDA does treat dietary supplements differently than other foods. After the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), the FDA put the burden on the manufacturers and online health food stores to ensure the contents of dietary supplements are safe and that the claims they make about the product can be backed up. Thus, the FDA does not have to approve these supplements before they can reach the market.
However, this does not mean that the dietary supplement industry is not regulated. The FDA still has oversight of the industry, and if they find a product to be unsafe or promoted with misleading advertising, they can take action against the company. The FDA has an adverse events and misleading claims hotline where consumers can call and report potential problems. When a complaint is received, the FDA will investigate.
A good example of this occurred in 2004, when the FDA released a report on Better Than Formula, a supplement for infants. The product's labeling and name seemed to represent it as a replacement for formula (or breast milk). This caused the FDA to put pressure on the company that makes the supplement, and it eventually led to a recall. The product is no longer on the market.
Another example is when claims are made to treat asthma. FDA frequently weighs a heavy hand on such claim. However, an allergy treatment like Yamoa is treated differently, as allergy is different category from asthma
So, the FDA actually has a very active role in keeping watch over the supplement industry. In addition, the FDA requires that all ingredients in supplements must be listed on the product. It also prohibits statements by the manufacturer that their product can treat or cure any specific condition.
The FDA has stricter control over typical foods for good reason: if there is a tainted food supply there is a much larger population at risk. But to assume they don't play a role in regulating the supplement industry is inaccurate. The FDA does act as a strong influence in ensuring manufacturers don't have the opportunity to fool us into purchasing snake oil. And if they do get that opportunity, the FDA acts to punish them for it. All in all, we can feel confident about the supplements we buy because of the role the FDA plays.
One thing that should be remembered is the difference between food and supplements. The latest hot products in the natural foods industry are wholesale superfoods, such as wholesale goji berries, camu camu, yacon syrup, and chia seeds, but these don't fall under the FDA guidelines. Because these are uncooked, unaltered food, these are not regular as supplements, even though they make claims similar to supplement as far as health increasing effects.