Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can you direct me to information on dietary supplements (including herbal supplements) and alternative medicine?

Many web sites on the Internet related to dietary supplements are maintained by manufacturers and retailers who wish to sell you supplements. Such information may be biased or misleading. While we can direct you to some reliable information on the Internet, keep in mind that it is for information purposes only and does not take the place of personalized advice from a qualified health professional who is familiar with your health situation. We advise that you discuss dietary supplements and alternative medicines with your healthcare provider.

General dietary supplement information:

Herbal Information:

Technical Information:

Alternative Medicine Information:

Should I check with my physician or healthcare provider before taking a dietary supplement?

  • If you are pregnant, nursing a baby, or have a chronic medical condition, such as, diabetes, hypertension or heart disease, you should always check with your physician, healthcare provider or pharmacist before purchasing or taking any supplement. Keep in mind that the ingredients in dietary supplements are not tested or approved by the FDA. For more information on this or the FDA's role in Dietary Supplement Regulation please visit the Question and Answer section of the FDA's Web site.

Is it true that I can get all the vitamins/minerals I need from the food that I eat?

  • There is insufficient evidence to either recommend for or against the use of multivitamin/mineral supplements for the prevention of chronic diseases for healthy Americans. It is recommended that you try to get all the vitamins/minerals you need by eating nutrient-dense forms of foods, while balancing calorie intake with energy expenditure. Nutrient-dense foods contain essential vitamins and minerals, and also fiber and other naturally occurring substances that may have positive health effects. For more information see the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Can a supplement help me lose weight?

  • According to the National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements, you should always check with your health care provider before taking a supplement. For some people, a supplement can have harmful side effects and could interact with prescription and over-the-counter medications. Also, the FDA regulates weight-loss supplements differently from prescription or over-the-counter drugs. As with other dietary supplements, the FDA does not test or approve weight-loss supplements before they are sold. Manufacturers are responsible for making sure their supplements are safe, and that the label claims are truthful and not misleading. For more information, see the Weight Loss Fact Sheet for Consumers, from the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements.