Advertising Dietary Supplements

As for all products on the market, advertising for dietary supplements must be truthful and substantiated. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) work together in regulating dietary supplement advertising. FDA is primarily responsibe for claims on product labeling, while FTC has primary responsibility for claims in advertising, including print and broadcast ads, infomercials, catalogs, and similar direct marketing materials. These two agencies collaborate to ensure consistency in dietary supplement advertising regulation.

Claims describing the role of a dietary supplement in supporting wellness are allowed on dietary supplement labels provided the manufacturer has evidence substantiating these claims and notifies FDA of the claim within 30 days of marketing the product. In some instances, the dietary supplement must contain the following disclaimer on the label: “This statement has not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease."

There are three types of permissible claims for dietary supplements: health claims, structure/function claims, and nutrient content claims. 

  • Health claims describe a relationship between a food, food component, or dietary supplement ingredient and reduction in the risk of a disease or health-related condition. An example of a health claim is “a healthful diet with adequate folate may reduce a woman’s risk of having a child with a brain or spinal cord defect. 
  • A structure/function claim describes the role of a nutrient or dietary ingredient in affecting the normal structure or function of the human body. Examples of structure function claims include “helps promote urinary tract health”, “helps maintain cardiovascular function”, and “promotes relaxation”. 
  • Lastly, nutrient content claims describe the level of a nutrient or dietary substance in the product, using terms such as “free”, “high”, and “low”. The majority of nutrient content claims apply to ingredients with an established daily value (e.g., Vitamin C, calcium). An example of this would be that a supplement with at least 12 mg of Vitamin C per serving could state on its label that the product is an “Excellent source of Vitamin C”.
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