"Dietary Supplements," Herbs, and Hormones

Stephen Barrett, M.D.

The most logical definition of "dietary supplement" would be something that supplies one or more essential nutrients missing from the diet. However, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994—commonly referred to as DSHEA—defines "dietary supplement" as any product (except tobacco) that contains at least one of the following: (1) a vitamin, (2) a mineral, (3) an herb or botanical, (4) an amino acid, (5) a dietary substance "for use to supplement the diet by increasing total dietary intake," or (6) any concentrate, metabolite, constituent, extract, or combination of any of the aforementioned ingredients. Herbs ,of course, are not consumed for a nutritional purpose and often are marketed with therapeutic claims. The supplement industry, which lobbied vigorously for passage of this act, included them in this definition to weaken the FDA's ability to regulate their marketing. Since DSHEA's passage, hormones have also been marketed as "dietary supplements."

This page provides an index to information on the wide variety of substances sold as "dietary supplements" by health-food stores, pharmacies, multilevel companies, health practitioners, and mail-order entrepreneurs, and Internet outlets. A few such substances are useful, but most are promoted with false or misleading claims. Most of the articles are on Quackwatch, but some are on other sites.

The articles below are not linked back to this page. If you want to return here after visiting any of the pages below, use the "back" command of your web browser..

General Observations

Consumer Protection

Legal/Political Issues

Misleading Ads

"Supplement" and "Health Food" Products

Herbal Products


Links to Other Web Sites

This page was revised on May 30, 2011

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