Dietary supplements are products such as vitamins, minerals, and herbs that claim to promote wellness. Many of these supplements do have known benefits, but there are also risks you should know about.

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Some dietary supplements may help improve your overall health and reduce your risk of some health conditions. Healthcare professionals often recommend dietary supplements for people who have certain health conditions, are at risk of certain conditions, or have a lack of nutrients in their diets.

But that doesn’t mean it’s always safe to take dietary supplements. They can have side effects and risks, including organ and nerve damage.

Dietary supplements include products such as vitamins, herbs, minerals, enzymes, amino acids, and botanicals. They are available over the counter. Vitamins C and D, fish oil, echinacea, melatonin, calcium, iron, and probiotics are examples of common supplements.

Most come in multiple forms, such as:

  • tablets
  • capsules
  • gummies
  • teas
  • powders
  • candies
  • energy drinks
  • nutrition bars

Dietary supplements can be a great source of nutrients. They can help improve your overall health and may reduce your risk of some health conditions.

Sometimes, a healthcare professional might recommend that you take a dietary supplement. For instance, they might advise that you take an iron supplement if you have iron deficiency anemia or take calcium if you a have risk of osteoporosis.

A healthcare professional might recommend a dietary supplement if you:

  • have a high risk of a health condition that can be lowered with the addition of a nutrient
  • need extra nutrients because you’re pregnant or nursing
  • have a condition such as kidney failure that makes it difficult for your body to absorb nutrients
  • have a specialized or restricted diet that lacks a specific nutrient
  • experience malnutrition and don’t get enough nutrients from your diet
  • receive lab results showing a deficiency of a specific nutrient
  • are an older adult and have trouble absorbing nutrients from foods

Some dietary supplements have been linked to a decreased risk of some conditions and to improvements in health. For example:

Dietary supplements can lead to side effects. The risk of side effects increases if you take many supplements together or if you take high doses. Since many dietary supplements add to the nutrients you get from foods, it can be easy to take an overly high dose without knowing.

Possible side effects of dietary supplements include:

Supplements can also have long-term complications and risks such as:

Additionally, some supplements can interact with prescribed medications.

Some side effects are specific to certain supplements or to the combination of certain supplements and medications. For instance, vitamin K can make the blood-thinning medication warfarin less effective.

That’s why it’s always important to tell a healthcare professional about any supplements you take.

Manufacturers and retailers sometimes use the term “food supplements” to label supplements made from specific ingredients that are not made in a lab, are made to be added to foods, or are high in calories.

For instance, some powdered supplements that are meant to be mixed into a food or beverage might be called food supplements. Supplements that provide calories and are meant to replace a meal or part of a meal can also sometimes be called food supplements.

It’s important to talk with a healthcare professional about any dietary supplements you take. Although some have been found to improve overall health and lower the risk of certain health conditions, supplements can also come with risks.

The risks and outlook related to taking any supplement depends on the supplement type, the dosage, the reason you’re taking it, and factors such as your overall health and any medications you take.

A healthcare professional can help you understand the possible risks and benefits of any supplement you’re considering.

What do dietary supplements do to your body?

Different dietary supplements have different effects on your body. For instance, vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, and curcumin can reduce inflammation.

Do dietary supplements help you lose weight?

Multiple supplements include weight loss on their list of benefits. However, there is little to no scientific evidence for most of these claims. You can read more about supplements and weight loss here.

How long does it take for dietary supplements to work?

The time it will take to see the effects of a supplement depends on the supplement type and dose. Sometimes, it can take just a day or two. But it might be weeks or months before you’ll notice the effects of some supplements.

Dietary supplements such as vitamins, herbs, and minerals can help provide nutrients and improve your overall health.

Supplements have some potential health benefits, and a healthcare professional might recommend that you take a supplement if you have certain health conditions or dietary restrictions.

However, supplements are also associated with side effects and risks. It’s important to talk with a healthcare professional about any supplements you take to make sure they’re safe for you.