The Scoop - Winter 2018

The Scoop: A Newsletter for Consumers from the Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health Department of Health and Human Services seal  Office of Dietary Supplements logo

Winter 2018

What's the Scoop? Questions and Answers About Dietary Supplements

New Supplement Facts Labels—What You Need To Know

woman looking at dietary supplements

You have probably seen the new Nutrition Facts labelsexternal link disclaimer on some of your favorite foods. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) developed the labels to help you make better choices. The Supplement Facts labels on dietary supplements are also changing. Both types of labels have a fresh look and also have updated Daily Values (DVs) for many nutrients, including vitamin D, vitamin C, potassium, and vitamin B12. These changes are based on research showing that people need slightly higher or lower amounts of certain nutrients than previously thought.

The new labels might cause some confusion, so we've answered some of the questions you might have.

When will the new Supplement Facts labels come out and what will they look like?

sample Supplement Facts label

According to the FDAexternal link disclaimer, manufacturers must begin using the new labels on January 1, 2020, but they are allowed to use them now. (Small manufacturers have another year to comply.) This means that until 2021, you will see both labels on the market.

Here is a look at the new Supplement Facts label for a multivitamin supplement. Key changes include:

·         Listing vitamin D in mcg (micrograms) instead of international units (IU), although manufacturers can also list IU in parentheses. The units for other nutrients, including vitamin E, vitamin A, and folate, have also changed. 

·         New or updated DVs for many nutrients, including 30 mcg for biotin, 90 mg (milligrams) for vitamin C (instead of 60 mg), and 2.4 mcg for vitamin B12 (instead of 6.0 mcg). 

I have been taking a vitamin D supplement that contains 400 IU, which is 100% of the DV. I just purchased another vitamin D supplement that also contains 400 IU, but its label says it provides only 50% of the DV. How can that be?

women discussing dietary supplements in a store

There is a simple explanation—the supplement you are currently using has the old Supplement Facts label, and the one you just purchased has the new label. For many years, the DV for vitamin D was 400 IU. Therefore, a vitamin D supplement containing 400 IU would provide 100% of the DV.

However, research shows that many adults need somewhat more vitamin D than previously thought. So, the FDA increased the DV for vitamin D and also changed the units. 


The new DV is 20 mcg (micrograms), which is equal to 800 IU. Because the DV has changed, a 400 IU vitamin D supplement bearing the new Supplement Facts label provides only half, or 50%, of the DV.

?On the new label, manufacturers must list the amount of vitamin D in mcg, but they can also list it in IU to make the transition a little less confusing for consumers.

You can read our vitamin D fact sheet for more details about this nutrient.  

My cardiologist recommended a 100 IU supplement of natural vitamin E. I found a supplement that has 100 mg of vitamin E. Is that the same as 100 IU?

No, 100 mg of vitamin E is not the same as 100 IU; the units make a difference.

The amount that your cardiologist recommended—100 IU of natural vitamin E—is equal to 67 mg of vitamin E. This is because 1 IU of natural vitamin E is equal to 0.67 mg of vitamin E.

As you noticed, vitamin E is labeled in mg on the new Supplement Facts label instead of IU. It now matches the units used for vitamin E's recommended intake, which is 15 mg for most adults.

You can read our vitamin E fact sheet for more details about this nutrient.

In the News

Study shows fish oil and vitamin D supplements do not prevent cardiovascular disease or cancer

translucent supplement capsules

Results were recently published from the VITAL trial, the first large clinical trial to investigate whether supplements of vitamin D and/or omega-3s from fish oil reduce the risk of heart disease or cancer in adults over 50. In this trial, more than 25,000 men and women who had never had a heart attack, stroke, or cancer took one of four daily supplements for about 5 years: 2,000 IU of vitamin D; 1,000 mg of omega-3s from fish oil; 2,000 IU of vitamin D + 1,000 mg of omega-3s from fish oil; or placebo. Neither vitamin D nor omega-3s reduced the chances of having a major heart problem (heart attack, stroke, and dying from a heart problem), nor did they reduce the chances of getting cancer. The researchers will continue to monitor the men and women who participated in the study and publish additional results when they become available.

Hidden drugs found in some products labeled as dietary supplements

FDA logo

A recent article published in JAMA Network Openexternal link disclaimer made headlines when it reported that unapproved drugs have been found in some products labeled as dietary supplements. The researchers reported that between 2007 and 2016, the FDA issued warnings for 776 tainted supplements, and in most cases the adulterant was not declared on the label. Most were products marketed for sexual enhancement, weight loss, or body building, not the more commonly used supplements such as multivitamins. For example, sibutramine, a medication that was withdrawn from the market because it raises blood pressure and heart rate, was found in some weight loss supplements. The FDA maintains a list of tainted productsexternal link disclaimer marketed as dietary supplements that have hidden ingredients and might not be safe.

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The Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the nation's medical research agency—supporting scientific studies that turn discovery into health.

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Office of Dietary Supplements

National Institutes of Health

6100 Executive Blvd., Room 3B01

Bethesda, MD 20892-7517