Herbal & Nutritional Supplements

It is becoming increasingly common for people to take dietary supplements, such as herbs, botanicals, vitamins, minerals and other natural substances to maintain good health. Dietary supplements are also being explored as way to boost the immune system to help fight diseases. Although their usage has increased, dietary supplements are still a health issue where there is a lot of misinformation.

What Substances are Categorized as Dietary Supplements?

In 1994, the Federal government enacted the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) to help regulate dietary supplements. It was enacted because even though dietary supplements are controlled by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), they are not subject to the same strict oversight as prescription drugs.

With the passage of DSHEA, the government was able to accomplish three objectives:

  • Establish standards for what manufacturers could write on product labels
  • Set limits for product health claims
  • Define quality, safety and effectiveness regulations for the manufacture of these products

According to DSHEA, a product can only be called a dietary supplement if it meets the following criteria:

  • It is designed to act as a supplement to a person’s normal diet
  • It includes one or more of the following ingredients in its composition – vitamins, minerals, herbs , botanicals, amino acids, or their constituents
  • It is taken orally
  • It is labeled as a dietary supplement

How are Dietary Supplements Monitored by the FDA?

It is important to note that, unlike prescription drugs, the FDA does not require a manufacturer of a dietary supplement to prove that the product is safe or effective before it is marketed. There are some other important regulations concerning the marketing of dietary supplements:

  • A manufacturer can only make a claim that a dietary supplement meets a nutrient deficiency, helps maintain good health, or enhances the functioning of a particular body mechanism if there is clinical research to support that claim. If one of these claims is made, it must be followed by the words “This statement has not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.”
  • Manufacturers are expected to follow certain “good manufacturing practices” to maintain a consistent standard for processing dietary supplements and to ensure quality control.
  • The FDA monitors the product for safety as soon as it becomes available to the public. Dietary supplements that are found to be unsafe can be removed from the market. The agency can also take action against the manufacturer and issue a warning to the public that the product should not be used.
  • The FDA also monitors the product information on labels and package inserts as soon as the dietary supplement is brought to market.

In addition to FDA oversight, The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulates the advertising of dietary supplements to be sure that all information is true and not misleading in any way.

Should Mesothelioma Patients use Dietary Supplements?

It is important to remember that before you add supplements to your diet, you should talk to your doctor because some supplements can have a drug interaction with certain chemotherapy drugs.

If your doctor says it is safe, you may want to consider using dietary supplements, especially during those periods when you are experiencing treatment-induced loss of appetite.

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