If you're considering a dietary supplement you can protect your health, and your wallet, with two important rules:
Here's how to put these two rules into practice.
Do your research
Be open minded yet skeptical. Make sure the supplement that you're considering can be of benefit to you. Any pill that is strong enough to produce a positive effect is also strong enough to carry a risk. Do your homework and investigate the potential benefits and risks before you buy.
Gather evidence based information from reputable sources. When researching supplements, do what doctors do. Look for high quality clinical studies or clinical reviews of the available evidence published in peer reviewed journals. You can find many of these journal articles online or by asking a reference librarian at your local library.
If reading scientific studies isn't your thing, look to a noncommercial website produced by the government, a university, or a reputable medical or health related association for a summary of the science. The Internet is a rich source of health information, but it's also a source of misinformation, so be careful.
Follow the 3 D's to sort fact from fiction:
Ask your health care practitioner
Be upfront with your health care practitioner if you're taking a supplement. Your practitioner can't help you if you don't provide an honest account of everything you're taking including natural products.
It's especially important to talk to your health care practitioner about supplements if you:
Work with your health care provider to determine which supplements might be valuable for you. Even if your provider isn't familiar with a particular supplement, he or she may access the latest medical guidance about its use and risks or refer you to someone who can. Your pharmacist may also be a good resource.
Watch out for false claims
Unlike some drugs, supplements aren't intended to cure diseases. Steer clear of products that promise to do so. Also look out for the following claims or buzzwords. These are often warning signs of potentially fraudulent dietary supplements. Be wary if:
Some people mistakenly believe dietary supplements can't hurt, even if they don't help. This isn't true. Alternative and complementary products and practices may offer real health benefits, but some also pose serious risks. Make sure you know why you are taking the product and what you hope to achieve from its use.