Frequently Asked Questions

What is a dietary supplement?

A dietary supplement is any product that contains one or more dietary ingredients such as a vitamin, mineral, herb or other botanical, amino acid or other ingredient used to supplement the diet. Dietary supplements are not food additives (such as saccharin) or drugs.

Should I check with my physician or healthcare provider before taking a dietary supplement?

If you are pregnant, nursing a baby, or have a chronic medical condition, such as, diabetes, hypertension or heart disease, you should always check with your physician, healthcare provider or pharmacist before purchasing or taking any supplement.

What is the difference between the RDA and DV for a vitamin or mineral?

Many terms are used when referring to either the amount of a particular nutrient (such as calcium or vitamin D) you should get or the amount in a food or dietary supplement. The two most common are the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) and the Daily Value (DV). These terms can be confusing. RDAs are recommended daily intakes of a nutrient for healthy people. They tell you how much of that nutrient you should get on average each day. RDAs are developed by the Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. They vary by age, gender and whether a woman is pregnant or breastfeeding; so there are many different RDAs for each nutrient. For each nutrient, there is one DV for all people ages 4 years and older. Therefore, DVs aren’t recommended intakes, but suggest how much of a nutrient a serving of the food or supplement provides in the context of a total daily diet. DVs often match or exceed the RDAs for most people, but not in all cases. DVs are presented on food and supplement labels as a percentage. They help you compare one product with another. As an example, the %DV for calcium on a food label might say 20%. This means it has 200 mg (milligrams) of calcium in one serving because the DV for calcium is 1,000 mg/day. If another food has 40% of the DV for calcium, it’s easy to see that it provides much more calcium than the first food.

Can people get all the nutrients they need from their diet?

Eating a healthy, balanced diet is the best way to get all the nutrients the body needs.

Does taking supplements replace the need for a varied and balanced diet?

As the name suggests, food supplements are only intended to ‘supplement’ people’s diets and not replace healthy foods.

What happens if people don’t get all the vitamins and minerals they need?

Nutrition underpins good health and a considerable body of research has highlighted links between inadequate intakes of vitamins and minerals and poor health.

How do people know which food supplements can benefit them?

It’s not easy for people to tell if they’re getting all the nutrients they need from food, therefore many people choose to take a supplement, such as a multivitamin and mineral, to top up any nutrient shortfalls in their diet...

Is it OK to take different supplements at the same time?

Combining supplements will not normally interfere with the way they work and in some cases may be beneficial.

What’s the difference between a food supplement and a herbal medicine?

Herbal substances come from plants and many are used in both food supplements and medicinal products.