• Dietary supplements can be found in a variety of forms, including tablets, capsules, powders, soft-gels, gel-caps, extracts, and liquids. These products are found virtually anywhere; health food stores and drug stores usually have the best selection. You can also purchase these products through mail order catalogues, the television and the Internet. Those big warehouse stores where you can buy a lifetime supply of anything also carry dietary supplements, but since most supplements have a set shelf life, you should avoid buying your pills in bulk.

  • Take the time to read the supplement labels carefully. Some companies claim to provide results that are neither accurate nor humanly possible.

  • Just because a product is labeled "natural," "herbal," or "natural and herbal" does not guarantee it is safe to use. Consider poisonous mushrooms. They're natural but they're still POISONOUS.

  • Natural and synthetic vitamins are basically the same thing. If you think about it, nothing that comes in a pill form is "natural." Mother Nature created a bunch of crazy stuff, but she managed to stay away from tablet and gelcap production. Basically, synthetic vitamins are just cheaper to make.

  • A vitamin's price doesn't reflect its potency. Higher priced vitamins aren't any better than the bargain variety.

  • If you're sensitive to bee stings or have asthma, supplements containing bee pollen or royal jelly could cause an allergic reaction.

  • Look for products whose ingredients carry the U.S.P. notation. This indicates the manufacturer has followed standards established by the U.S. Pharmacopoeia. (This should make you feel better about the product.)

  • Consider the name of the manufacturer or distributor. Supplements made by a nationally known food and drug manufacturer, for example, are more likely to have been made under tight controls because these companies already have set in place manufacturing standards for their other products.

  • Check the expiration date on the bottle.

  • It's fine to buy supplements containing sugar and starch. These are sometimes added to ensure better nutrient absorption.

  • Store brands may be just as good as name brands. Bet you didn't know that both brands could even be made by the same manufacturer. Store brands are usually less expensive because you're not paying for advertising.

Don't think for one minute that merely graduating from the chalky Fred to an adult multivitamin will ensure you a healthy and productive future. No pill, regardless of its color or flavor, can substitute for living an overall healthy lifestyle. Dietary supplements will help make up for nutritional deficits in your diet, but you still need to exercise, avoid smoking and excessive drinking, and manage your stress.

And be optimistic, too - optimists tend to have longer lives than pessimists. If you feel that you have nothing to be optimistic about, at least be happy that you're going to live longer, thanks to this SYW.