Modern snake oil, from Vietnam (courtesy of w a a on Flickr)
Q: What is a dietary supplement?
A: A dietary supplement is a product intended for ingestion that contains a “dietary ingredient” intended to add further nutritional value to (supplement) the diet.
Source: United States Food & Drug Administration
This is the first installment of a multi-part series of articles, taking a look at the various facets of the nutritional supplement field. This time around, we’ll be looking at the more mundane, or at least less-freaky-sounding, end of the spectrum – stuff you’re apt to find in a casual perusal of your local drug store or supermarket. Basically, things like vitamins and less-esoteric herbs… things you won’t need to need to skill up (or head to a specialty store, either online or in the big blue room) to gather, basically.
One thing that you’ll become intimately familiar with, whether you’re looking at the latest workout-blasting powder or something as simple as a multivitamin, is the asterisk (*), which appears on pretty much every single thing that proclaims to offer a health benefit.
* – These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
What this means is that there is a whole buttload of leeway here, and, furthermore, that many of the nutrients don’t have any kind of recommended daily amount (RDA). In short, it’s the Wild West out there – anyone can say anything does whatever they want. As a result, a lot of research has been done to support or debunk the efficacy of various supplements, which has resulted in a little bit more clarity on the subject, as well as this really cool graph.
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