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  • Aug 19, 2016

Dietary supplements have little oversight

Pieter Cohen, MD, a physician at CHA Somerville Campus Primary Care, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and a nationally recognized expert on dietary supplements, shared insight with Consumer Reports on their potential risks.

Dietary supplements are subject to less rigorous guidelines than prescription medication. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration classifies supplements differently from prescription drugs, and because of this, companies that produce them are not required to prove that they are safe before selling them to the public.

These loosely regulated products can make their way into stores, doctor’s offices and hospitals, posing a number of problems. They can be ineffective, mislabeled or purposely mixed with illegal or prescription drugs. Supplements can also produce harmful side effects and interact with medication in ways that make those drugs ineffective.

Dr. Cohen suggests that not only are the advertised ingredients of supplements potentially dangerous, consumers sometimes have no idea what they are actually ingesting.

Additionally, he advises that healthy people do not need to take extra vitamins unless a doctor recommends doing so. If you are thinking about taking supplements, it is always best to speak with your primary care physician first. An exception to this guideline would be women planning to get pregnant, who should take folic acid as it can help prevent certain types of birth defects.

This articles provide general information for educational purposes only. The information provided in this article, or through linkages to other sites, is not a substitute for medical or professional care, and you should not use the information in place of a visit, call consultation or the advice of your physician or other healthcare provider.

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