What does the Supplement Facts panel on a dietary supplement tell me?
All products labeled as dietary supplements carry a Supplement Facts panel that is similar to the Nutrition Facts panel found on food products. It lists the active ingredients and their amounts, plus other added ingredients like fillers, binders, and flavorings. It also gives a suggested serving size, but you and your health care provider might decide that a different amount is more appropriate for you.
In the Supplement Facts panel, the amounts of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients like dietary fiber are listed as a percentage of the Daily Value or %DV. Each nutrient has one DV that applies to all people age 4 and older. For example, the DV for vitamin C is 60 milligrams (mg) and the DV for the B-vitamin biotin is 300 micrograms (mcg).
The %DV allows you to see how much a product contributes to your approximate daily needs for that nutrient. For example, if a supplement provides 50% of the DV for calcium, it contributes about half of your daily needs for calcium.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has Web pages that describe the DV in more detail and provide DV values for all nutrients.
What about quality?
Companies sometimes put terms like “standardized,” “verified,” or “certified” on labels to suggest their products have consistent quality. But because these terms are not defined in U.S. law, these terms on a label do not guarantee product quality or consistency.
The FDA has rules companies must follow that address the identity, purity, strength, and composition of dietary supplements; however, the FDA does not approve or certify dietary supplements. Because of this, the quality of various dietary supplements may vary, and people often wonder how to compare the quality of one product with another.
To find a good quality dietary supplement, there are some things you can do. First, you may wish to ask your health care provider to make a recommendation. You can also look for dietary supplements that carry certain “seals of approval” from third-party, independent organizations. These organizations provide verification services for dietary supplements and give you some assurance that the product was properly manufactured, that it contains the ingredients and amounts listed on the label, and that it does not contain harmful levels of contaminants. Organizations offering these programs include:
How can I compare the ingredients and doses in one product with those in another?
The newly released Dietary Supplement Label Database (DSLD), free of charge and hosted by the National Institutes of Health, contains label information from thousands of dietary supplement products available in the U.S. marketplace. You can use it to search for things such as a specific ingredient in a product, a particular supplement manufacturer, text on a label, or a specific health-related claim.
The DSLD can also help you find contact information for a dietary supplement manufacturer or distributor.
Hundreds of new dietary supplements products are added to the marketplace each year, while some are removed. Product formulations are frequently adjusted, as is information on labels. The DSLD will eventually include most of the dietary supplement products in the U.S. marketplace.