The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) suggests that you talk with a healthcare professional before using dietary supplements. Many contain ingredients with strong biological effects, and such products may not be safe for everyone. Here is the FDA’s general advice:

■ Dietary supplements are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or alleviate the effects of diseases. They cannot completely prevent diseases. However, some are useful in reducing the risk of certain diseases and are authorized to make label claims about these uses. For example, folic-acid supplements may make a claim about reducing the risk of birth defects of the brain and spinal cord.

■ Using supplements improperly can be harmful. Taking a combination of supplements, using these products together with medicine, or substituting them in place of prescribed medicines could lead to harmful, even life-threatening, results.

■ Some supplements can have unwanted effects before, during or after surgery. For example, bleeding is a potential side-effect risk of garlic, ginkgo biloba, ginseng and vitamin E. Before surgery, you should inform your doctor about all the supplements you use.

— Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration

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