Reading the Supplement Label

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 9,034
    Deborah Jeffery, registered licensed dietitian discusses how to understand different dietary supplements for men and women including how to read a supplement label.

    Deborah Jeffery: Hi, my name is Debbie Jeffery. I am a registered licensed dietitian. We are talking about understanding dietary supplements for men and women. Now we are going to be talking about how to read the supplement label.

    The dietary supplement label has to supply specific information so that you can make an informed decision. This is a fake label but it will tell you what's included. First we are talking about the Statement of Identity. The Statement of Identity includes the product name, in this situation it's Ginseng and it also has to identify what it is. Underneath it states, a dietary supplement. Sometimes it might say vitamin or mineral on it. Next we will go down to the Net Quantity of Contents and this will tell you how many are in the bottle. Here its 60 capsules but it could be tablets or soft gel; it will give you the number. Also included on the label is what they call a Structure Function Claim and I am going to come back to that to talk about what different kinds of claims could be on the supplement label. But you will see Directions; in this one its take one daily or it might be take two tablets twice a day. It will give you that information.

    Then we have the Supplement Facts. It will list the serving size, it lists what the ingredient is and in the case of a botanical, it has to tell you what part of the plant, the supplement is from? In this case, it's from the root. Also they have to list how much of the ingredient is in the capsule and if there is a daily value or a recommended dosage amount, it will be listed on the label. In this case, there is none, there is no established recommended dose for Ginseng. Also they have to tell you other ingredients it's listed on the label. In this case, it's gelatin water and glycerin. And these have to be listed in order of their weight. So the ingredient that's in there, the highest ingredient will be enlisted first.

    And then the name and place of business or the manufacturer, the packager or the distributor is listed with their address. So if you need to, you can contact them for more information.

    Now I am going to return to the claims that could be listed on a label. There are three different kinds of claims. One could be Nutrient claim, a Health claim or what they refer to a Structure Function claims. The Nutrient claim will list if the supplement is high in a particular ingredient. So for a Nutrient claim they have to have a certain level of that nutrient in a serving size. It's generally 20% of the recommended intake in a single serving and then the label can call that product high or an excellent source of. This is of course to be regulated by the FDA and you can trust what's on the label in these cases. Another type of claim is a Health claim and these link the supplement to the health benefit that it has for the body. These are regulated by the FDA, you can depend on those. So if a health claim is on a label, you know that there is good scientific evidence that it will do what it says. For example that calcium helps with bone health or that folic acid prevents neural tube defects, these are health claims.

    Now the next kind of claim is what they call a Structure Function claim. These are not regulated by the FDA and they are put on the product by the manufacturer and generally there's not a lot of scientific evidence to backup the claim and they have to have an FDA Disclaimer on that. If we go back to our label, their Structure Function claim was, "When you need to perform your best take Ginseng" and underneath it has a statement saying, "This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease".

    Here's another herbal product. The product is called VENASTAT and they claim that it helps relief achy, tired, or swollen legs and it promotes leg vein health and circulation. This again is a Structure Function Claim that hasn't been proven whether it's not a scientific consensus that this product will have these benefits. So at the bottom it has the FDA Disclaimer.

    Here's another product, St. John's Wort. Same thing, it says, may help enhance mood. Again this is claim put on here by the manufacturer, it is not been conclusive evidence that this will enhance mood. So it needs to have the FDA disclaimer on the label. On many packages, they will just have an asterisk or a symbol at the end of the claim and you have to kind of look for the disclaimer. But when you see that you will know to further look at the label to see if they have the disclaimer on it. Now there's certain things the label won't tell you. The label does not have to list any potential side effects from taking the supplement. You would have to contact the manufacturer or talk to a health care professional to find out that information. Next we will be talking about selecting and using a supplement.