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Being Aware of Food Supplements

Posted 3/14/2016 by UHBlog

Being Aware of Food Supplements

A recent study found that 20-90 percent of cancer patients use some type of food supplement1. Supplements include vitamins, minerals and herbs. They can be used to help appetite, nutrition and wound healing; but there are other things about using supplements that people with cancer need to know.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t check supplement content. This makes it hard to know what really is in certain products. Some supplements may have no active ingredients at all, while others can have ingredients that may not be safe. Arsenic, lead and mercury have been found in supplements. These toxins can lead to health problems in people being treated for cancer. How well supplements and herbs work has not been well studied. In some cases, taking a supplement may do more harm than good.

Let your doctor or dietitian know about all supplements, minerals, vitamins or herbs you are taking. Write down the name of the product, the brand and how much you take. Your health care team can find out if the products you take are safe and healthy.

It’s easy to think that because a supplement is bought over the counter and labeled “natural” that it’s safe. Talking with your doctor or dietitian is the best way to find out if taking supplements is healthy and safe for you.

Ask your doctor or nurse for an appointment with a University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center dietitian or our integrative oncology specialist Richard Lee, MD to find out more about food supplements for people with cancer.

To learn more:

Source cited:

  1. Frenkel M, Sierpina V. The use of dietary supplements in oncology. Curr Oncol Rep. 2014 Nov;16(11):411

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