What distinguishes a dietary supplement from a drug?

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According to the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994, dietary supplements are products taken by mouth and intended to supplement the diet. Vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids, enzymes, and organ tissues are examples of ingredients in dietary supplements. Dietary supplements are classified under "foods" and do not need Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. Drugs are substances not classified as food and designed to affect body structure or function. They are used for diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease. Drug manufacturers must prove that their drugs are safe and effective for their intended use before gaining FDA approval.

Cheryl Taylor
Oncology Nursing

Drugs are FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved. Many dietary supplements are not. It is important to read all drug information carefully and ask your pharmacist questions, as needed.

Continue Learning about Dietary Supplements

Dietary Supplements

Whether you're visiting the drug store, grocery or natural food shop you'll likely find an aisle where there are jars and bottles of things for you to put in your body that are neither foods nor medicines. Ranging from vitamins an...

d minerals to fiber and herbal remedies, these supplements are not regulated in the same way as either food or medicine. Some of them are backed by solid research, others are folk remedies or proprietary cures. If your diet does not include enough of certain vitamins or minerals, a supplement may be a good idea. Natural treatment for conditions like constipation may be effective. But because these substances are unregulated, it is always a good idea to educate yourself about the products and to use common sense when taking them. This is even more true if you are pregnant or taking a medicine that may be affected by supplements.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.