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Being Savvy about Supplements

Consider these tips the next time you find yourself reaching for one of these nutritional add-ons.

Woman holing a tomato in one hand and vitamins in the other

Vitamins, minerals, herbals and extracts line retail shelves, so choosing a safe and effective option can be challenging. Consider these tips the next time you find yourself reaching for one of these nutritional add-ons.

Choose food before pills

Plenty of scientific evidence supports the notion that a varied diet can meet all of your nutritional requirements without the need to add anything else. Some of the more commonly noted ‘shortfall’ nutrients in the American diet, like vitamin D and potassium, can be harmful if also overconsumed in supplement form.

Be mindful of medications

There is a lengthy list of supplement-medication interactions that can derail well-intended efforts to stay healthy. For example, St. Johns’ Wort can interact with medications used to treat depression, and ginseng can reduce the effectiveness of blood thinners. Are you wondering if your supplement can be used with you current prescriptions? Check with your local pharmacist.

Do your homework

According to the Food and Drug Administration labeling guidelines, a dietary supplement cannot claim to treat, cure or prevent any disease. However, structure and function claims such as “supports heart health” are permitted, and these can be used without any evidence to support them. Review the science and make an informed decision that best suits your needs. The National Library of Medicine and the National Institute of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements are easily searchable websites to help you wade through a sea of misinformation. Remember, if a claim sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Look for quality assurance

While dietary supplements are not reviewed for safety and effectiveness before they hit the marketplace, some manufacturers will enlist third-party agencies to verify the purity of their products. While this has nothing to do with a product’s effectiveness, it will at least provide reassurance that what is listed on the label is what is in the product. The United States Pharmacopeia, the National Science Foundation and Consumer Lab are among the leaders in this service.

It is okay to be a skeptical consumer and always review your dietary supplement plans with your health care provider, not your social media feeds.

To discuss your overall health, schedule a Virtual Visit or on-site appointment with one of UF Health Jacksonville’s primary care centers by calling 904-633-0411 or visiting

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