Are Dietary Supplements Safe? By: Kristine Van Workum, Registered Dietitian

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a survey summary from 2007 reported the following:
17.7% of American adults had used “natural products” (i.e. dietary supplements other than vitamins and minerals) in the past 12 months. The most popular products used by adults for health reasons in the past 30 days were fish
oil/omega 3/DHA (37.4%), glucosemine (19.9%), echinacea (19.8%), flaxseed oil or pills (15.9%), and ginseng
(14.1%). In another, earlier national survey covering all types of dietary supplements, approximately 52% of adult
respondents said they had used some type of supplement in the last 30 days; the most commonly reported were
multivitamins/multiminerals (35%), vitamins E and C (12–13%), calcium (10%), and B-complex vitamins (5%)
– (Source:

Surely there are circumstances that require vitamin/mineral supplementation. For example, if you are missing certain nutrients in your diet or if you have a medical condition that is associated with a vitamin deficiency, or if blood work confirms a deficiency. For example, it is relatively common to see a Vitamin B12 deficiency in elderly patients, or people who have followed a vegetarian or vegan diet for many years may be at risk for Vitamin B12 or iron deficiencies. There has also been an increased number of documented Vitamin D deficiencies in the past couple years, but this must be confirmed with a blood test by your doctor.

However, it is important to remember that we should rely on food as our primary source of vitamins and minerals. Our bodies digest and absorb nutrients from food more efficiently than from pill forms. Supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so they may contain substances that are not reported on the label. For these reasons, we should use caution when considering supplements, whether from herbal products or vitamin/mineral supplements. Remember that “all natural” does not always mean “safe.” We must consider potential interactions with prescription medications or toxicity levels that may affect our organ function (ie. there have been cases of liver failure resulting from overuse or inappropriate use of herbal supplements).

The bottom line? You may want to save some of the money you are spending on dietary supplements and put it into your grocery shopping budget. Be careful with the use of herbal products and vitamin/mineral supplements. Remember to always share this information with your healthcare providers, and update your medical doctor and pharmacist on what medications and supplements you are currently taking. Find out if there are any potential interactions with your prescription medications before starting a supplement. For more information, and to see fact sheets and the research behind various herbal products, visit the NIH-National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine website:

Kristine Van Workum, RD, CSSD, LDN
LifeShape Registered Dietitian & Owner of Brevard Nutrition (

Green Tea Pistachio Muffins (Gluten-Free)
• You can purchase Oat Flour or make your own by taking 1 ½ cups of Old Fashioned Rolled Oats & grinding it to a powder in a food processor. Corn flour would be good too if oats are not an option.
• Pistachio meal: Toast unsalted pistachios in the oven in a single layer on a sheet pan for about 10 minutes at 350˚F. Let nuts cool and then grind them to a meal in a food processor. Be sure to not grind them too much into a nut butter.
• You can use any other nuts in these muffins if you do not have pistachios.

1 ½ cups Oat Flour 1 large Egg, whisked
½ cup unsalted Pistachio Meal (ground pistachios) 1 tsp pure Vanilla Extract
2 ½ tsp Baking Powder 2 Tbsp unsalted Butter, melted &cooled to room temperature
1 Tbsp Green Tea Powder (also called Matcha) 1 cup fat-free/low-fat Milk
5 Tbsp Honey ¼ cup Plain Greek Yogurt
¼ tsp fine Sea Salt Cooking Spray – or mini cupcake liners

Instructions: Makes 24 mini muffins (or 8-12 servings)
Preheat oven to 350˚F with the rack in the middle. Prepare a non stick mini muffin with liners or cooking spray. In a medium bowl mix together dry ingredients. In a separate medium bowl mix together wet ingredients. Combine wet and dry ingredients and mix together until well incorporated. Fill muffin pans leaving a little room at the top for expansion. Bake for about 10-13 minutes until a toothpick comes out crumb free. Let cool in pan and then transfer to rack.

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