Did you know that dietary supplements, such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids and the like, are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration? The manufacturers of dietary supplements are actually not accountable to anyone unless they choose to be.

However, more than half of the population of the USA takes dietary supplements regularly. In October 1994, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act passed. This Act decided that supplements would be treated like food and not medication.

Practically, this means that the manufacturer is responsible for the contents of their supplement and not an independent party such as the Food and Drug Administration. I would venture to guess this would surprise a lot of people and give a cause for second thought in dietary supplement use.

There is a program called the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) that verifies the quality of a dietary supplement; however, this is an optional program for manufacturers. If you see the gold and green USP label on a supplement, you know you are making the most trusted choice. This label tells you the ingredients of the supplement have been tested and are the same as on the supplement's label.

Also that the ingredients are not contaminated, they are able to be digested by the human body and the supplement is made with good manufacturing practices. If you would like to look up more information about USP verification visit their website usp.org/USPVerified. There are three parent companies that carry the USP verification across all of their dietary supplements; Nature Made, Kirkland Signature and TruNature.

Because of the thousands of options when it comes to dietary supplements, I encourage you to only choose those with the USP verification. This way you can rest assured you are avoiding contaminated ingredients and truly getting the supplement you think you are buying.

And, of course, always discuss your supplement use with a registered dietitian to avoid any complications with your health.

Stephanie Whitley is a registered and licensed dietitian with DeTar Healthcare System. Send questions or comments to dietitians@vicad.com.

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