Types of Dietary Supplements: An Expert's Guide

The Food and Drug Administration estimates that there are currently more than 29,000 different dietary supplements available to consumers. Learn about different types of dietary supplements from an expert's perspective.

Types of Dietary Supplements: An Expert's Guide

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates that there are currently more than 29,000 different dietary supplements available to consumers and that an average of 1,000 new products are introduced each year (Sarubin, 2000). Many adults and children in the United States take one or more vitamins or other dietary supplements. In addition to vitamins, dietary supplements may contain minerals, herbs or other botanical ingredients, amino acids, enzymes, and many other ingredients. Dietary supplements come in a variety of forms, including tablets, capsules, gummies and powders, as well as energy drinks and bars.

When it comes to dietary supplements, there is a wide range of products available on the market. From vitamins and minerals to herbs and botanicals, there is something for everyone. Popular supplements include vitamins D and B12; minerals such as calcium and iron; herbs such as echinacea and garlic; and products such as glucosamine, probiotics, and fish oils. Dietary supplements are vitamins, minerals, herbs and many other products.

They can come in the form of pills, capsules, powders, drinks and energy bars. It's important to note that dietary supplements don't have to go through the same rigorous testing that medications do. Supplement companies are responsible for having proof that their products are safe, and the claims on the label are truthful and not misleading. Many dietary supplements may not contain the exact amount of specific ingredients listed on the label.

In order to ensure the safety of dietary supplements, the FDA has implemented current good manufacturing practices (CGMP) for the dietary supplement industry in the United States. The FDA also relies on the MedWatch program, through which health care providers report any adverse events that occur with supplements. The fact that dietary supplements provide measurable health benefits has long been a topic of scientific debate. The FDA has established good manufacturing practices (GMP) that companies must follow to help ensure the identity, purity, concentration and composition of their dietary supplements.

In other countries, the definition of dietary supplement may or may not be as inclusive as that adopted in the United States. In the European Union, for example, the regulation of supplements is often based on a case-by-case basis depending on the individual country and the safety tests available for the ingredient. A survey conducted by Consumer Reports found that 97 percent of respondents who said they regularly take dietary supplements reported consuming supplements that fall into the vitamin and mineral category. People who took supplements for sports nutrition or weight management purposes accounted for about 19 percent of those surveyed.

Within this category, the most common type of supplement was a protein supplement (10 percent), followed by energy drinks and gels (7 percent), garcinia cambogia (4 percent), green coffee (3 percent) and hydrating beverages and gels (3 percent). In Australia and Canada, supplements and medications are similarly regulated. Only ingredients considered acceptable by the Australian Therapeutic Products Administration or the Natural Health Products Directorate Canada can be sold as dietary supplements. The Federal Trade Commission also requires that information about a supplement be truthful and not misleading.

This fact sheet from the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) provides information that should not replace medical advice.