Vitamin Supplement Safety

Taking supplements can be a good way to get much needed vitamins and minerals that you may be missing.   However, like many other medication, it’s important to check with your health care professional before you start taking them.

Vitamins and supplements can be very safe but they can also be dangerous if not used properly because there are so many options on the market. It’s important to know which ones are effective.

Sheila Sullivan, registered dietitian for Food and Nutrition Services at Baystate Health, offers tips on vitamins supplements and what you should know before you start taking them:

Food First

Taking vitamins and supplements to fill in nutritional gaps isn’t the answer.   A poor diet with vitamins is still a poor diet.  You want to always use food first.  Then, if recommended by your doctor or nutritionist, you want to take a multi-vitamin that’s no more than 100% of the U.S Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA).

Check With You Doctor

Before you start taking anything you should always consult with your doctor or dietitian.  There’s a chance that you may not even need the additional vitamins in your diet. Having too many vitamins of the same origin in your body can ultimately cause more harm than good.  Also, when you get to the hospital or to a doctor’s appointment, you should always include vitamins on the list of medications you are taking.   There are vitamins and herbal supplements that can cause complications with certain medical conditions and can react with prescription medications.  Plus, taking large doses of any vitamins and herbal supplements can be harmful to your kidneys.  A medical professional can explain the most appropriate and safe ways to consume vitamins.

Check the label – Good quality

After you get approval from your health care professional to take vitamins, the next step is to get the best quality vitamin. Picking the right one is important to be sure you are getting what you need and the correct amounts of it.  For vitamins, you want to look for a USP label on the bottle and a clearly marked Consumer Labs label to know that they are safe.  Otherwise, you’re can’t be guaranteed what you are getting.
As far as herbal supplements go, your best bet is to check with your doctor first.  Herbal supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA so it’s harder to tell which ones you should really be taking.

Vitamins vs Herbal Supplements

There is a huge difference between vitamins and herbal supplements.

The majority of vitamins sold on the market today are solely comprised of substances similar to the natural chemical compounds found in the body. These compounds can include Vitamins C, D and other vitamins and minerals. Herbal supplements typically include bitter-tasting plants that are not part of the normal diet. Herbs have been used by humans for thousands of years and revolve around the use of plants or plant extracts for wellness purposes.  While herbal supplements aren’t regulated, vitamins do have some regulations that police the industry.  Again your doctor or dietitian can help you sift through the bottles on store shelves so you know that you have a good one.

For more information contact on the Food and Nutrition program at Baystate log onto


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