Are Supplements Safe?

By: Danielle Fryer, RDN, CSCS

Supplements are regulated…well, sort of. They are absolutely not regulated like over-the-counter and pharmaceutical-grade drugs. Tainted supplements are sold to the public every day. The FDA does not check to see if they are “what they say they are” before they can be sold. Instead, they wait until something goes wrong (someone gets hurt). Additionally, the FDA tries to find the adulterated products through random testing, but this must be done before pulling them off the market. Based on a nine-year study, published in 2018, in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 776 dietary supplements were tainted with pharmaceutical drugs. Less than half of the supplements were recalled. The remaining supplements were left available to sell to the public. The supplements that are most commonly adulterated are for weight loss, bodybuilding and sexual enhancement. Weight-loss supplements contained sibutramine, which is a prescription drug for weight loss.  If you are taking any pharmaceutical drugs in combination with sibutramine, you may run the high risk of negative drug interactions. Bodybuilding supplements were found to contain low-quality, man-made steroids, with numerous negative side effects. Sexual enhancement supplements were laced with Viagra, which is harmful for those on high blood pressure medications. A list that includes a small fraction of potential hazardous products with hidden ingredients can be found at HERE.

As a registered dietitian-nutrition and strength coach, I am not anti-supplementation. I personally take specific vitamins and mineral supplements, caffeine, and also take creatine monohydrate. However, I reference my sources with well-researched science-based evidence, from published, scientific journals, and encourage you to do the same. Your personal goals and health history should be of the upmost importance while doing so. To learn more about how to reduce your risk of encountering a product marketed as a dietary supplement with a hidden ingredient please visit FDA’s Medication Health Fraud web page.


Danielle Fryer RDN, CSCS is an advocate for healthy living. Fryer is a registered dietitian nutritionist, specializing in sports dietetics, certified strength and conditioning specialist and yoga teacher. She has served in fitness and nutrition leadership roles in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Alabama, and Arizona. She now lives in Scottsdale and works as the new Director of Health & Fitness at The Country Club at DC Ranch.  

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