Obtaining nutrients from non-food sources such as pills, powders, or injections.
Some vegetarians and vegans consume dietary supplements in order to boost their intake of vitamins, minerals, protein, fats, or other beneficial substances. Dietary supplements commonly come in various forms.
- Swallowable pills (eg. solid tablets, gel capsules)
- Powders (especially protein powder)
- Liquid extracts (eg. liquid iron or B vitamin solution, flaxseed oil)
- Injections (eg. the B12 shot)
Supplements vs. Fortified Foods
Some foods such as milk, bread, and cereal may be fortified with vitamins or minerals in some countries, but these are not considered supplements. Whereas fortified foods retain the original appearance and taste of the food, supplements are usually unrecognizable. For example, a vitamin D tablet made from lichen bears no resemblance to actual lichen.
Most supplements tend to be low in food energy (calories) but this is not a defining characteristic. For example, capsules containing omega-3 fatty acids provide food energy like any other source of fat, and protein powders can contribute a significant source of energy on a daily basis.
Legal Standing of Dietary Supplements
In the United States supplements are loosely regulated by the Food and Drug Administration but the FDA does not guarantee the safety of any supplements.
In 1994, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) defined dietary supplements as a category of food, which put them under different regulations than drugs.