The safety of commonly used vitamins and minerals

The safety of commonly used vitamins and minerals

CPD Hours: .5
Current as at 13 June 2022
Like all medicines, supplements can cause potential harms such as adverse reactions, drug interactions, monetary cost, delay of more effective therapy, false hope, and increased medication burden. Although most vitamins and minerals are available for open sale, many are subject to legal restrictions as scheduled medicines, depending on the dose. This session explores the risk of these supplements and strategies to educate the public to the potential for harm.


Explore the concept that vitamins and minerals are harmless

Course Content

The fundamental challenge in any discussion about the regulation of dietary supplements is that there is no global consensus on how the category of products known variously as dietary supplements, natural health products, complementary medicines or food supplements in different countries is defined. For example, a product considered to be a dietary supplement and regulated as a food in one country, in another jurisdiction may be considered a food supplement or a therapeutic good (complementary medicine) or a therapeutic good (a prescription medicine) or potentially even a controlled substance. The situation is even more complicated when countries like China or India that have an existing regulatory framework for traditional medicine or phytomedicine that includes crude botanicals are considered.

Another challenge is that while all regulatory scientists want to protect consumers from harm, ensure that consumers have the ability to make informed choices about the products they use, and do the right thing, the scientific challenges and regulatory systems that have arisen to deal with them vary greatly from country to country. Even in countries with similar cultures, legal systems, and levels of economic development, regulations applying to dietary supplements vary considerably.

A final challenge is that “dietary supplement” health products are often very emotive and polarizing topics, evoking a diverse range of opinions and viewpoints. While some observers may contend that these products should be considered in a similar fashion to conventional drugs and foods, others believe that a more tailored approach is necessary since there is often a traditional or historical evidence base and products often contain multiple ingredients. Increasingly, this situation has become even more complex because of the lucrative nature of the global dietary supplement sector, increased involvement of a growing industry sector producing them, and the introduction of many new and innovative products onto the market.

Learning Outcomes

In this session, you will:

  • Explore the concept that vitamins and minerals are harmless
  • Understand that marketing of vitamins and minerals is generally based on their claimed benefits with little, mention of their potential harms
  • Investigate the potential risks and potential benefits
  • Review whether when taking a comprehensive history, health professionals should include dietary supplements

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