Are Dietary Supplements Safe for You?

Are Dietary Supplements Safe for You?

For all the talk lately about the lack of trust in government, people take it for granted that any product for sale in the U.S. is automatically safe to use – including supplements found in health stores, drug stores, and grocery stores.  After all, if they weren’t safe you’d either need a prescription or you couldn’t find them.  Right?

FDA’s Supplement Oversight Power

Believe it or not, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 states that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has no power to “pre-approve” dietary supplements. They law does give them the power to remove or ban the sale of any product that is suspected of containing illegal ingredients, such as animal parts. The problem is that  this aftermarket action is very complicated to enforce.


  1. It is up to consumers and health care providers to notify the FDA that there is a potential problem with a given product.
  2. Manufacturers are required to submit a notice of new ingredients to the FDA but the definition of what constitutes “new” is vague and there is no way to ensure that a manufacturer is compliant with the law.
  3. Dietary supplement firms are known to change the name of the product without the knowledge of the FDA after the supplement is banned by name.
  4. There are too few agents to follow up on the more than 55,000 dietary supplements sold in stores across the U.S. and fewer still to monitor imported products sold online.

The FDA’s Office of Dietary Supplement Programs has recently put forth a revised guidance for the Notification of New Ingredients” that would empower the government to have the ability for the first time to identify unsafe ingredients before they hit the open market.  While this still wouldn’t prevent fraudulent supplements to be sold on the Internet, it would be a step forward in the protection of U.S. consumers.

The Importance of Supplement Safety

One of the most dangerous health issues related to dietary supplements is that ingredients are sometimes absent from the labeling, sometimes illegal in the U.S., and other times the name of an ingredient is changed when it has been outlawed.


Ingredients that are hidden or not reported on the labels include items that are laced with molds and known poisons. Illegal ingredients are often not listed. For instance, one product known as Zi Xiu Tang Bee Pollen has been flagged as it contains undeclared sibutramine and/or phenolphthalein. Other illegal ingredients include animal parts such as oxen and bull penis, and bovine eyes since these typically are contaminated with molds, mildews, and/or fecal matter.

An example of the latter is the ingredient called Oxilofrine. In 2004, this ingredient was outlawed as extremely dangerous and having caused thousands of deaths in the U.S. At that time, it was called ephedra. Manufacturers gave it a change in name and a subtle tweaking of the chemical composition. If Oxilofrine had been reported under the “new ingredient” regulation, it would have been caught before more people suffered death and permanent injury.


Oxilofrine is also marketed under the name Methylsynephrine, which many consumers believe is the same as Synephrine, which is a natural component of bitter oranges.  Unfortunately, there are many names on labels that are designed to deliberately mislead buyers.

Consumer Reports lists Lobelia and Green Tea Extract Powder among the top 15 ingredients to always avoid.  Both are known to potentially cause death while the other side effects are equally undesirable – some causing permanent health issues.


The FDA and Consumer Reports as well as multiple medical research and health organizations are sending out alarms about supplements sold for the purpose of increasing energy, assisting in weight loss, increasing muscle mass, and normalizing erectile function.  Additionally, they warn against taking anything marked or marketed as “100% Natural” as if an ingredient that is natural, such as Lobelia, is not deadly. The best protection available at this time is “Buyer Beware”.

More by this author

Tanvir Zafar

The founder of ISU Technologies, passionate in writing about entrepreneurship, work and technology.

20 Best Places to Work for a Great Career in 2019 How to Be Innovative and Creative at Work 15 Best Books for Entrepreneurs to Start Reading Right Now 8 Powerful Reasons to Love Your Enemies 22 Team Building Activity for Work That Are Fun and Encourage Creativity

Trending in Leisure

1 The 5-minute Guide to Meditation: Anywhere, Anytime 2 How to Quit Your Job and Travel the World After 40 3 The 25 Best Self Improvement Books to Read No Matter How Old You Are 4 25 Truly Amazing Places To Visit Before You Die 5 30 Fun Things to Do at Home

Read Next


Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.


3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.


6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.


9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.


Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via

Read Next