According to the Council for Responsible Nutrition, more than 170 million Americans take dietary supplements annually. The dietary supplement category includes vitamins, minerals, botanicals, sports nutrition supplements, weight management products and specialty supplements. While dietary supplements are not intended to replace or be a substitute for a well-balanced diet, they are used to boost or complement a diet. When used properly, dietary supplements support a healthy lifestyle and help promote good health.
Unfortunately, some people are hesitant to use dietary supplements because of the belief that they are ‘unregulated’. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) as well as additional government agencies in each of the 50 states work in conjunction to oversee and regulate the dietary supplement industry to ensure products are safe before authorizing their approval.
Consumers need to be aware that virtually all aspects of manufacturing, product labeling, marketing and product ingredients are covered by an extensive number of regulations issued and enforced by the FDA. In addition to the FDA, the Federal Trade Commission oversees and regulates dietary supplement advertising. The law mandates that all ads must be truthful, not misleading and backed by scientific evidence when health claims are used.
To help inform consumers, the FDA has established three types of health claims that are permitted to be displayed on a dietary supplement product. Here is a description of what each claim means:
Nutrient content claim
A Nutrient content claim must list the amount or characterize the level of a nutrient in a product. For example, a nutrient claim can state that it is a ‘good source of Vitamin D’ or is ‘high in antioxidants’ or ‘free of’ a certain ingredient based on the serving size. The nutrient content claim can also suggest that the product may be useful in maintaining healthy dietary practices such as “healthy, contains 3 grams of fat”. To avoid misleading the consumer, manufacturers can only make nutrient content claims that are specifically defined in FDA’s regulations.