Vitamins and dietary supplements are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same. Vitamins are a type of supplement, but other types of supplements include minerals, herbs, or nutrients such as fiber. Many adults and children in the United States take one or more vitamins or other dietary supplements. Dietary supplements come in a variety of forms, including tablets, capsules, gummies and powders, as well as energy drinks and bars.
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. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has established good manufacturing practices (GMP) to help ensure the identity, purity, concentration and composition of dietary supplements. However, the FDA does not determine if dietary supplements are effective before they are marketed. Some dietary supplements can help you get adequate amounts of essential nutrients if you don't eat a variety of nutritious foods.
If you think you've had an adverse reaction to a dietary supplement, tell your healthcare provider. Also, be careful when giving supplements to a child, unless recommended by your healthcare provider. Be careful when taking dietary supplements, beyond a standard prenatal supplement, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. The Office of Dietary Supplements website has a useful form, My Dietary Supplement and Medical Record, that you can print and complete at home.
It is also not recommended to take supplements instead of following a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, healthy fats and other foods with a nutritional impact. Products sold as dietary supplements come with a supplement information label that lists the active ingredients, the amount per serving (dose), and other ingredients, such as fillers, binders, and flavorings. The Federal Trade Commission requires that information about a supplement be truthful and not misleading. Now that you have a better understanding of the differences between vitamins and supplements, let them make a positive difference in your life and your health.