Introducing Dietary Supplements

The vitamin pill you may pop each morning is a dietary supplement. So are the calcium antacids many American women consider standard nutrition. Echinacea, the herb reputed to short-circuit your winter cold, is, and so is the vanilla-flavored meal-in-a-can liquid your granny chug-a-lugs every afternoon just before setting off on her daily mile power walk. The FDA classifies each of these as a dietary supplement because they meet the agency's definition: any pill, tablet, capsule, powder, or liquid you take by mouth that contains a dietary ingredient.

Of course, that raises another question: What's a dietary ingredient? Answer:

i Vitamins i Minerals i Herbs i Amino acids (the "building blocks of protein" described in Chapter 6) i Enzymes i Organ tissue, such as desiccated (dried) liver i Some hormones, such as melatonin, which is promoted as a sleep aid i Metabolites (substances produced when nutrients are digested) i Extracts

Dietary supplements may be single-ingredient products, such as vitamin E capsules, or they may be combination products, such as the nutrient-packed protein powders favored by some athletes.

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