Disclaimer: This information isn’t a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should never rely upon this article for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.

When you walk down the aisles of your local grocery store or pharmacy, you might notice an aisle packed with bottles featuring the names of plants, herbs, minerals, and other chemicals with strange-sounding names. Fish oil, CoQ10, zinc, omega-3, vitamin D…horny goat weed? What exactly are these things, and what do they do? To help you figure this out, we’ve put together a selection of articles surrounding some of the most popular supplements on the market so that you can decide which, if any, are right for you. 

Supplements, or dietary supplements, are substances that you eat and drink that are designed to—wait for it—supplement the diet. They might contain vitamins, minerals, herbs, probiotics, amino acids, or parts or extracts of any of these substances. They are not intended to be a replacement for regular food or actual medications. 

Supplements are huge in America. Surveys have indicated that around half of all Americans are taking one supplement or another. Many of these people were taking daily multivitamins, the most popular supplement. It’s big business too, around $37 billion dollars worth of supplements were sold in 2015. 

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for regulating supplements. Unlike medications, a supplement maker doesn’t need to prove that their supplement actually works before selling it. Because of this, the makers of supplements can’t legally say that their supplements are able to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any disease. They can say, however, that their supplements can contribute to general well-being.  

That’s not to say that all supplements are bogus. For example, taking prenatal vitamins if you’re pregnant or planning a pregnancy is extremely important to the health of the future baby. Researchers have found lots of other products to be helpful in a myriad of conditions, but it’s important to learn about what actually works before putting it in your body. After all, supplements have side effects associated with them, just like actual medications. 

Keep in mind that your healthcare provider is your best resource to understand your health. Make sure to let them know about all the medications and supplements you’re taking or planning to take. That will make it easier for them to spot any interactions between them and keep you safe.

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