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Dietary Supplements: Benefits, Risks, Regulation Essay

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Updated: Sep 14th, 2022

Dietary supplements consist of herbs, vitamins, minerals, and other elements administered either as pills, capsules, or in liquid form aimed at improving the diet of the consumer. The supplements provide extra units of the components for the body with the intention of meeting the recommended dietary allowance for that component, or with a view of providing other substances believed to be beneficial to health.

According to Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), the term dietary supplement is collective for a formulation containing a vitamin, mineral, or herb, or concentrates, metabolites, or extracts from the components. The supplements have a profound effect in regulating both biochemical and physiological functions in the body. Unfortunately, not all information regarding the use of supplements is true. Some of the information contains bias, an aspect that increases their popularity due to the promise of enhanced performance and health optimization (Talbott, 2003).

A person taking supplements stands to gather various benefits. Functional foods such as dietary fiber in the supplements promote physiological functions in the body that reduce the risk of colon cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Minerals such as selenium also play a role in neutralizing possible cancer causative agents. Adequate amounts of selenium result from the growth of food materials in soil rich in it. Supplementation of the mineral in the diet is, therefore, a more viable way of ensuring adequate intake. Mineral requirements for elements such as Boron and Tin are hard to meet through a normal, balanced diet.

Supplements containing these components become feasible in obtaining the recommended dietary intake. Supplements are also beneficial in managing certain health conditions. Hormones such as melatonin help maintain healthy sleep patterns for people with low melatonin secretions in their system. Supplements, therefore, provide relief for people who fear not meeting certain dietary allowances for minerals and some vitamins in their diets by mere administration of a pill (Talbott, 2003).

Consequently, supplements may pose a health risk to an individual because of toxicity. Many vitamins and minerals requirements are easily met through the intake of a normal, balanced diet. Supplements may pump in excess of what the body requires for optimal functioning. Toxicity may occur when Vitamins and minerals exceed the upper tolerable limit. Vitamins A, D, E and K are oil soluble and excess proportions are stored in the liver fat.

They are harder to expel from the body than Vitamin C and B complex. Fat accumulation may cause enlargement of the liver, which has severe consequences. Excess of Iodine causes a form of goiter that is harder to treat than the other form caused by low intake. Excess potassium can lead to cardiac arrest due to elevated heartbeat. Sodium is abundant in most processed foods and more so since it is a constituent of common table salt. Excess of sodium in supplements can lead to hypertension and promote excessive water retention in the body leading to Edema (Grosvenor & Smolin, 2006).

Regulations on the administration of supplements remain unclear. The mandate jointly rests on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Food and Trade Commission (FTC). FDA controls and validates the use of claims during labeling, packaging and preparation of promotional materials given out at point of sale.

All components in the supplement must be clearly labeled indicating their role and possible adverse effects. FTC, on the other hand, regulates claims upon a supplement when advertising. FTC aims at ensuring that consumers receive truthful information from the manufacturers, reinforced by scientific evidence. The regulation protects consumers from deception emanating from the omission of key facts of benefits and possible risks. Whatever an advert says about a supplement must be accurate.

FTC has guidelines for validating claims for ingredients used traditionally. This happens in the field of traditional medicines used consistently across generations for treatment or management of certain health conditions. Section 6 of DSHEA enforces compulsory additional of a disclaimer to statements of nutritional value in supplements.

There is a twist in the regulation process since manufacturers do not need to prove safety of a certain ingredient before introducing it to the market. FDA, on the other hand, must produce proof before restricting sale or imposing withdrawal of any ingredient (Talbott, 2003).

Glucomannan is a soluble fiber supplement administered in aiding weight loss. The fiber absorbs water up to 200 times its weight. When administered, it promotes a feeling of fullness subsequently reducing food intake. In addition, research confirms the supplement lowers levels of low density lipoproteins and cholesterol. The polysaccharide also promotes growth of useful bacterial in the gastrointestinal tract within seven days of administration. This is helpful towards the alleviation of constipation.

Recommended dosage for the supplement is 1g in eight ounces of water one hour before meals. Though effective, Glucomannan can bind and reduce bioavailability of other nutrients. This can be beneficial as it regulates the absorption of glucose. However, it may prove negative for minerals such as iron thus prompting a person to take multivitamins to compensate for binding. On the other hand, high doses may cause diarrhea and flatulence (Talbott, 2003).


Grosvenor, M.B. & Smolin, L.A. (2006). Nutrition: Everyday choices.New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons Inc.

Talbott, S.M. (2003). A guide to understanding dietary supplements.New York: The Haworth Press Inc.

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