ZocdocAnswersAre the supplements available at health foods stores all safe?

Question

Are the supplements available at health foods stores all safe?

I was just sort of checking out the supplements at the health food stores but I don't know which ones I should take and are safe to take. Does the government approve these health supplements or is it just buyer beware?

Answer

This is a great question, because you are getting right to the heart of the potential dangers of the health supplements market. It turns out that most health supplements, vitamins, and the like are not in fact strictly regulated by the government (the agency here that would do the regulating is the FDA, or food and drug administration). In particular, unlike prescription or over the counter medications, they are not rigorously evaluated for their safety. Furthermore, and perhaps more importantly, they are not required to pass tests proving that they do what they actually claim to do. Therefore, to give a hypothetical example, if you pick up an herbal supplement that claims to be for regulating or lowering blood pressure, the fact that the label says this does not in fact mean that the herbal supplement has ever been actually proven to lower blood pressure. In short, as you say, it is in many ways 'buyer beware' with regard to health supplements. Your primary care doctor is the best resource for you regarding specific questions about the safety or effectiveness of a given health supplement, and you should schedule an appointment with them at any time to discuss these issues!

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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