The Growing Demand for Stricter Regulation of U.S. Dietary Supplements

The dietary supplement market in the United States is growing rapidly. Consumer spending in 2021 exceeded $48 billion and is expected to grow at an annual rate of more than 5% for the next six years. The product portfolio has grown from about 4,000 products in 1994 to over 80,000 products in 2016. According to federal data from 2021, at least 50% of America’s adult population uses dietary supplements. A 2023 survey conducted by the council for responsible nutrition found that three quarters of those polled said they use dietary supplements.

The Growing Need for Supplements

Consumption of dietary supplements is on the rise, but concerns have been raised about the risks of taking too many supplements and the lack of evidence to back up many of their benefits. This has prompted calls for more government regulation, as much of the regulatory work for supplements comes after they’re introduced to the market.

Suzanne Bank, a supplement user for over 40 years, attributes her strong health and youthful appearance to her use of dietary supplements without any negative side effects. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) acknowledges that dietary supplements can improve or sustain health and help meet essential nutritional requirements, but cautions that they should not replace a healthy diet. Linder, a professor of nutrition at Northwestern University, warns that overconsumption of supplements can lead to overconsumption of other health benefits, such as physical activity and a healthy diet.

What is the Effectiveness of Supplements?

There is little evidence to support the effectiveness of most supplements in preventing cardiovascular disease and cancer, according to the USPFS Task Force. The Task Force specifically recommends against the use of Vitamin E and Vitamin C supplements, as well as Vitamin E and Beta-Carotene. The USPFS acknowledges the importance of prenatal Folic acid in the prevention of birth defects.

The USPFS also found no substantial evidence supporting the effectiveness of Vitamin D and Vitamin C supplements in preventing cancer or in reducing the risk of heart disease.

According to a study published in Nutrients, certain supplements can improve muscle and joint health. But beauty supplements, particularly those that claim to improve skin, hair and nail health, should be avoided because they can interfere with medical testing and contain heavy metals, such as in collagen supplements.

Regulatory oversight

The FDA’s review process for dietary supplements is primarily done after the product is placed on the market. This review process relies on surveillance to track the safety of the supplement. 

The DSHEA (Dietary, Hypertension, and Excesses Act) was passed in 1994 to regulate dietary supplements. 

As a result, there has been a push for more premarket oversight and for supplement manufacturers to be more transparent.