Dietary Supplements: Are they really HELPFUL or HARMFUL?


Dietary supplements are widely used and include minerals, vitamins, and other less familiar substances such as amino acids, enzymes, herbals and botanicals. Please note the following about them:

  • Many people take supplements regularly to ensure an adequate intake of essential nutrients. That is fine. However, supplements should not be taken as substitute for eating the variety of foods that make up a healthy diet.


Take home: always eat a balanced diet and fruits, whether you’re on supplements or not

  • Some consumers may believe that because a dietary supplement such as an herbal supplement or fish oil is called a “natural” product, it can’t hurt them. Well, natural doesn’t always mean safe. Moreover, the ingredients in a supplement may interact (by increasing or decreasing the effect) with medications that you need and may be dangerous for people with certain medical conditions. For example, each of Warfarin (a prescription blood thinner), ginkgo biloba (a widely marketed herbal supplement), aspirin and vitamin E (a supplement) can thin the blood. Taking any of these products together may increase the potential for internal bleeding or stroke.

  • Children, in particular could be harmed by taking both supplements and medicines as it increases the risk of an adverse event. Their metabolism is so unique, and at different ages, they metabolize substances at different rates.


Take home: seek medical advice before taking supplements (especially if you have a medical condition)

Seek advice from your pharmacist/doctor before taking supplements with your medications

Seek advice from your pharmacist/doctor before buying supplements for anyone you care about (especially if the person has a medical condition)

Conclusively, the question, “Dietary Supplements: Are they really HELPFUL or HARMFUL?” They are very helpful when properly taken.


Related literature

Publication by Bushra (2011) in Oman Medical Journal (doi:10.5001/omj.2011.21): “The effect of drug on a person may be different than expected because that drug interacts with another drug the person is taking (drug-drug interaction), dietary supplements the person is consuming (drug-nutrient/food interaction) or another disease the person has (drug-disease interaction)”


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8 thoughts on “Dietary Supplements: Are they really HELPFUL or HARMFUL?

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