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We’ve all seen the ads for weight-loss pills and other dietary supplements online, in our favorite magazines, and in television commercials. But what do consumers really know about this market? After a recent investigation by Consumer Reports into the supplement market, we put together some tips consumers should keep in mind.dietary-supplements

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t review dietary supplement products for safety and effectiveness before they go on  store shelves. Consumers should research all the ingredients listed on the label and consult with their health care provider about any potential side effects. A high profile example is the case of Olympic swimmer Jessica Hardy, who was disqualified from the 2008 Beijing Games because traces of a banned drug where found in her system. She blamed the energy drink she sponsored at the time.

As is the case with any purchase, consumers should know as much as they can about a product and its manufacturer. Reviews from other users can also be beneficial when figuring out the effectiveness and risks, and many can be found by a simple internet search. If no information can be found anywhere about the product, it’s probably not a wise choice to purchase it.

While the FDA does not verify that dietary supplements are safe before they go to market, a number of private companies do. However, each company varies in their testing requirements, so consumers should not judge solely based on whether or not the packaging has a “certified,” “verified,” or “approved” sticker. Consumer Reports has information on private seal companies and their requirements.

More information on dietary supplements can be found at the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health and the FDA. Problems, complaints, or concerns about a dietary supplement can be voluntarily reported through the FDA’s Safety Reporting Portal for investigation.

If you have additional questions, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation by calling our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757, Monday through Friday from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow the Office on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer. The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation is committed to protecting consumers through consumer advocacy and education.

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