A dietary supplement is a manufactured product intended to supplement the diet when taken by mouth as a pill, capsule, tablet, or liquid. A supplement can provide nutrients either extracted from food sources or synthetic, individually or in combination, in order to increase the quantity of their consumption. The class of nutrient compounds includes vitamins, minerals, fiber, fatty acids and amino acids. Dietary supplements can also contain substances that have not been confirmed as being essential to life, but are marketed as having a beneficial biological effect, such as plant pigments or polyphenols. Animals can also be a source of supplement ingredients, as for example collagen from chickens or fish. These are also sold individually and in combination, and may be combined with nutrient ingredients. In the United States, dietary supplements are considered a subset of foods, and are regulated accordingly.
There are more than 50,000 dietary supplement products marketed just in the United States, where about 50% of the American adult population consumes dietary supplements. Multivitamins are the most commonly used product. For those who fail to consume a balanced diet, the United States National Institutes of Health states that certain supplements certainly will have value.
In the United States, it is against federal regulations for supplement manufacturers to claim that these products prevent or treat any disease. Companies are allowed to use what is referred to as "Structure/Function" wording if there is substantiation of scientific evidence for a supplement providing a potential health effect.
An example would be "_____ helps maintain healthy joints", but the label must bear a disclaimer that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) "has not evaluated the claim" and that the dietary supplement product is not intended to "diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease", because only a drug can legally make such a claim. The FDA enforces these regulations and also prohibits the sale of supplements and supplement ingredients that are dangerous, or supplements not made according to standardized good manufacturing practices.
Always take special care to read labels and research contents as well as origin of contents. Supplementation should be taken very seriously and once you commit to a regimen and never expect a “miracle cure”. The best supplements do not promise extraordinary results and remember the adage…if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.