Supplement Safety: What’s Safe and What to Steer Clear Of

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Supplements are products which may include vitamins, herbs or minerals. They can come in a variety of forms such as energy bars, pills or liquid food supplements. Lots of people think that because supplements are on the market, they must have been regulated and are therefore safe to consume. However, what most people don’t know is that in the United States, supplements are treated more like special foods and not like drugs, so they’re not subject to the same strict safety requirements that drugs are.

In fact, drugs are considered unsafe until proven safe but the opposite is true for supplements. This can put many people at risk and it can be confusing to decide whether you should take a supplement or not. Here’s how to tell which supplements are safe and which to steer clear of.

Look for Scientific, Controlled Studies by a Third Party

In order for a drug to become available to the public, many years of research and trials must be conducted. First, the drug has to be tested in the lab and then may be tested on animals before clinical trials in humans are undertaken. After data is submitted, a team of health experts review the information to ensure that the drug is safe and effective enough to be put on the market.

Supplements, on the other hand, are not under such strict regulation. Fortunately, many third parties such as the government, universities and researchers do scientific, placebo-controlled studies involving supplements and the results can be found in journals on PubMed.gov. The supplement manufacturer or distributor may also conduct studies which they claim are scientific, but you should be skeptical as these may be biased. The bottom line is that if a supplement has been shown (multiple times) to be safe in scientifically controlled studies by third parties, it’s likely safe.

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