But a new Consumer Reports investigation reveals what the magazine calls the "dirty dozen" of dietary supplements - ones that may harm your health, and that you should consider avoiding.
On "The Early Show" Tuesday, CBS News Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton discussed several. Some might even kill you, research, the magazine and the government warn.
WEIGHT LOSS SUPPLEMENTS
Chaparral, which is marketed for weight loss as well as colds and detoxification, could cause liver damage or kidney problems. This is likely unsafe and the Food and Drug Administration advises people not to take it. Bitter orange and country mallow both could pose possible risks to your heart -- they have been linked to heart attack, stroke and even death.
Kava kava, which is promoted to ease anxiety or menopause, has been linked to possible liver damage. In 2002, the FDA released a consumer advisory notice about the potential risks. According to the FDA, kava-containing products have been associated with hepatitis, cirrhosis, and liver failure. There have been more than 25 reports of adverse events in other countries -- and at least four patients required liver transplants. It has been banned in Germany, Canada and Switzerland. However, it's still on shelves in the United States. "People should not take this," Ashton said on "The Early Show," "and they should look carefully at the ingredients of any supplement they're taking to see if that could be in it."
How are supplements regulated in the U.S.?
Dietary supplements are not regulated as strictly as prescription drugs or over-the-counter medications -- supplements can be marketed without having to demonstrate their safety or efficacy. They DO NOT need to get FDA approval before they're sold. If serious adverse events are reported once they're on the market, the FDA can take action. The manufacturers of dietary supplements must record, investigate and forward to FDA any reports they receive of serious adverse events associated with the use of their products that are reported to them directly. But, it's difficult to put together strong enough evidence to order products off the market -- warnings and recalls are utilized more often. We found 10 of the "dirty dozen" supplements in local stores
Not all supplements are dangerous; if you're considering adding one to your health regiment, what's the best way to insure it's safe for you?
Always consult your doctor or pharmacist. Patients often keep them as their "dirty little secrets" and don't 'fess up about using them. A doctor can check to see if there are any drug interactions or problems. Research the claims of what the supplements can do. If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. Don't assume that, just because it's being sold as "all natural" or in a health food store, that it's good for you. Lastly, look for the "USP Verified" mark - it means the supplement's quality, purity and potency have been verified by the U.S. Pharmacopeia, a trusted, non-profit organization.