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Dietary Supplements - A Short Review
By Themedica on September 1, 2008 12:44 PM |
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dietary-supplement.jpg Dietary supplements also known as food or nutritional supplements, are formulations meant to supply nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, fatty acids or amino acids that are missing or are insufficient in quantity in a person's diet. The legislations of different countries have defined dietary supplements differently, some have described them as foods, while others as drugs.

In the US for instance, a dietary supplement product is considered to supplement the diet and contains dietary ingredients, viz. a vitamin, a mineral, an herb or other botanical, an amino acid, or a dietary, substance for increasing the total dietary intake. It could be a concentrate, metabolite, constituent, extract, or combination of the above constituents. Additionally, it is meant for ingestion in pill, capsule, tablet, powder or liquid form.

In the European Union dietary supplements must be demonstrated to be safe, in quantity as well as quality to be approved as dietrary supplements

Types Of Dietary Supplements

There exist a wide range of substances labeled as dietary supplements, some of the common ones are described below.
Amino Acid Supplements

Amino acid supplements are amino acids, which are considered essential or indispensable for humans. Further, since they cannot be produced (synthesized) inside the body from scratch, they must be supplied in the diet. Examples of essential amino acids for humans include phenylalanine, methionine, threonine, valine, isoleucine, tryptophan, lysine and leucine.

Fiber Supplements

Fiber supplements are the indigestible portion of plant foods that assist in moving food through the digestivefiber-supplement.jpg system by absorbing water and easing defecation. Dietary fiber usually comprises non-starch polysaccharides viz. cellulose in addition to several other plant components such as dextrins, inulin, lignin, waxes, chitins, pectins, beta-glucans and oligosaccharides.

Herbal Supplements

A herbal supplement is any green, leafy plant, or its parts, used to flavor food or used for medicinal purposes or is valued for other qualities. Often a distinction is made between culinary and medicinal herbs. In medicinal use, for instance any of the parts of a plant viz. leaves, roots, seeds, berries, resin, flowers, root bark, inner bark (cambium) and sometimes the pericarp or other portions, might be considered as a herb.

Mineral Supplements
Dietary minerals or mineral supplements are the chemical elements considered essential for living organisms to maintain optimal health. Although, minerals are best considered to be supplied by consuming foods rich in the required minerals. However, sometimes minerals are also ingested as dietary supplements. Some, examples of dietary minerals include Cobalt - vitamin B12, Copper, Calcium, Fluorine, Chloride, Magnesium, Iodine, Zinc, Selenium and Sodium.


Nutraceutical is a portmanteau of the words 'nutrition' and 'pharmaceutical' and refers to neutraceuticals.jpg extracts of foods supposed to have a medicinal effect on human health, when taken in certain quantities. Nutraceuticals are available in several forms viz. capsule, tablet, powder in a prescribed dose. Examples of nutraceuticals and their usage includes resveratrol, which is derived from red grapes is an antioxidant, psyllium seed husk is soluble dietary fiber and supposed to help in preventing heart disease, sulforaphane found in broccoli supposedly works as a cancer preventative, etc.


Vitamins are essential compounds needed by the body in trace amounts for smooth running of the body's processes and good health. A compound is termed a weight-loss-supplement.jpg s a vitamin when it cannot be synthesized in sufficient quantities by the body and must be sourced from the diet. Humans need vitamins A, C, D, B series, E and K. A vitamin deficiency may make a person susceptible to disease.

Weight Loss Supplements

Weight loss supplements are herbs or substances that may help an overweight person lose weight. Some examples include herbs viz. Bitter orange which supposedly increases the number of calories burned, Chitosan is claimed to block the absorption of dietary fat, Ephedra is thought to decrease appetite, etc.

Dietary Supplements - Sourcing Tips

When it’s about dietary supplements, it's quality that determines how effective and safe the treatments will eventually be. The importance of quality dietary supplements can’t be overstated. The following guidelines would help you to procure quality supplies of dietary supplements.

1.Establish the integrity of the source prior placing the order

2.Establish a list of approved suppliers.

3.Require that any alternative source of supply provides the following as a minimum:

a.A pedigree back to the previous source

b.Certification that it is not a diverted product

c.Certification that any actions by the alternative source will not alter any original manufacture warranties or guarantees

d.Certification that the product has been stored and handled consistent with product labeling requirements

4.Be wary if a product is being offered at an unusually cheap price.

5.Check for signs of a removed or switched product label

6.Check for subtle changes in the product’s package (compare with previously purchased products), notwithstanding legitimate parallel imported products

7.Look for variations in the size of the container (compare with previously purchased products), not withstanding legitimate parallel imported products

8.Look for differences in container length, diameters and shapes.

9.Examine for variations in diameters of bottle openings or lids.

10.Examine for variations in the thickness of glass or plastic containers and for variations in container color tints.

11.Compare the physical characteristics of the product

Industry Overview

Unlike earlier when the dietary supplement industry was confined to vitamins and minerals, the industry now covers herbal remedies, botanical products e.g. gingko biloba, amino acids and more.

Further, over the years dietary supplements have garnered a lot of attention in the media and have widely become popular as capable of treating a range of abnormal medical conditions viz. to combat cancer, anxiety, depression, impotence, heart disease, digestive problems, the common cold, fatigue, obesity, prostate problems, high blood pressure, etc.

This popularity has also resulted market growth of this segment of the medical industry. Some of the best selling botanicals in the US for instance are garlic, ginseng, Echinacea gingko biloba and St. John's Wort, accounting for over $200 million in annual sales. Directly competing with many prescription drugs.

According to the statistics of the Office of Dietary Supplements, in 2004, consumers spending on dietary supplements was worth US $20.3 billion.  Studies also point to consumers increasingly searching for dietary supplements on the Internet.

The European market on the other hand is also well developed and it was the largest market for herbal and botanicals, valued at US $5.7bn in 2006. The market was worth $14.0 billion in 2006 and the supplements industry grew by 4.1% after 2005. In Europe growing public awareness of health and dietary Issues and an aging population is expected to stimulate the growth of the dietary supplements' market.


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