VitaminNZ Blog

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

What are Dietary Supplements?

What are Dietary Supplements?

A friend of mine asked a question the other day which at first I thought was silly!
That was – “What are dietary supplements?”

That got me thinking and was there others out there that are not so sure themselves….

So, here is a quick technical description of what covers dietary supplements and the authorities - (some) that deal with them.

A Definition:

A dietary supplement is a product intended for ingestion that contains a "dietary ingredient" intended to add further nutritional value to (supplement) the diet. A "dietary ingredient" may be one, or any combination, of the following substances: 

  • a vitamin
  • a mineral
  • an herb or other botanical
  • an amino acid
  • a dietary substance for use by people to supplement the diet by increasing the total dietary intake
  • a concentrate, metabolite, constituent, or extract.

Dietary supplements may be found in many forms such as tablets, capsules, softgels, gelcaps, liquids, or powders. Some dietary supplements can help ensure that you get an adequate dietary intake of essential nutrients; others may help you reduce your risk of disease.

The Legislation:

Here in New Zealand, Dietary supplements are regulated under the Dietary Supplements Regulations 1985, which fall under the Food Act 1981. Medsafe is responsible for administering the dietary supplement legislation.

In the USA, it is the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that overseas and administers dietary supplements.

Who takes them?

The majority of adults in the United States take one or more dietary supplements either every day or occasionally. Today's dietary supplements include vitamins, minerals, herbals and botanicals, amino acids, enzymes, and many other products. Dietary supplements come in a variety of forms: traditional tablets, capsules, and powders, as well as drinks and energy bars. Popular supplements include vitamins D and E; minerals like calcium and iron; herbs such as echinacea and garlic; and specialty products like glucosamine, probiotics, and fish oils.

Should you take them?

Keep in Mind:

Don’t decide to take dietary supplements to treat a health condition that you have diagnosed yourself, without consulting a health professional.

Don’t take supplements in place of, or in addition or combination with prescribed medications without your health care provider’s approval.

Check with your health care provider about supplements you take if you are scheduled to have any type of surgical procedure.

The term “natural” doesn’t always mean safe. A supplement’s safety depends on many things, such as its chemical make-up, how it works in the body, how it is prepared and the dose used. Certain herbs (for example comfrey and kava) can harm the liver.

Before taking dietary supplements, ask yourself these questions:

  • What are the potential health benefits of this dietary supplement product?
  • What are the potential benefits for me?
  • Does this product have any safety risks?
  • What is the proper dose to take?
  • How, when and for how long should I take it?

If you don’t know the answers to these questions, talk to your health care provider

I am also happy to say that I am a current and regular user of dietary supplements and of the products we have available here at

Regards, Paul - Vitamin NZ.