What makes consumers think dietary supplements are safe and effective? The role of disclaimers and FDA approval

Health Psychol. 2007 Jul;26(4):513-7. doi: 10.1037/0278-6133.26.4.513.


Objective: The present study was designed to examine the effect of the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) regulatory framework on beliefs about the safety and effectiveness of a dietary supplement.

Design: An experimental study was conducted with a sample of college students (N = 262). Participants read a description of a dietary supplement, and the experimental manipulations were embedded in the product description.

Main outcome measures: Primary measures of interest included overall knowledge of the FDA's role in regulating dietary supplements and safety and effectiveness ratings of the dietary supplement.

Results: Results demonstrated that individuals were not very knowledgeable about the FDA's role in regulating dietary supplements. Making participants explicitly aware that the FDA did not approve a dietary supplement lowered safety ratings of the supplement but had no influence on effectiveness ratings. The opposite results were obtained for a structure-function disclaimer in which the presence of the disclaimer lowered effectiveness ratings of the supplement but did not affect safety ratings.

Conclusion: Results highlight the importance of educating individuals about the FDA's role in regulating dietary supplements.

MeSH terms

  • Consumer Product Safety / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Dietary Supplements / adverse effects
  • Dietary Supplements / standards*
  • Drug Approval / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Drug Approval / methods
  • Drug Labeling / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Drug Labeling / standards*
  • Female
  • Health Education / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Health Education / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sex Distribution
  • Students / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*
  • United States
  • United States Food and Drug Administration / legislation & jurisprudence
  • United States Food and Drug Administration / standards*