When are dietary supplements useful?
Many adults in Germany regularly take food supplements in the hope of doing something good for their bodies. They are among the “essential substances”, i.e. those substances that the body urgently needs but cannot produce itself. Food supplements are nevertheless mostly superfluous for healthy people. Those who eat a balanced diet get all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals they need.
Poor nutrition cannot be compensated for
However, nutritional supplements cannot compensate for poor nutrition, experts warn. Only in individual cases, during pregnancy, in old age and with chronic illnesses, for example Crohn’s disease or severe inflammation, can a nutrient deficiency occur, which must be compensated with supplements. Certain diets, high alcohol consumption and smoking often lead to a higher need for certain nutrients. Those who eat vegan food must ensure that they consume all essential nutrients in sufficient quantities through the food they eat. In particular, the need for iron and vitamin B12 is more difficult to cover with purely vegetable food.
Exhausted and listless despite a healthy diet?
Anyone who feels exhausted and listless despite a healthy diet should consult a doctor. If, for example, the doctor detects an iron deficiency, the cause must be found and, for example, internal bleeding ruled out. In older patients, a lack of appetite or the absence of meat due to chewing problems can contribute to an iron deficiency. Older patients also suffer from natural changes in the gastrointestinal tract, which reduce the absorption of iron in the body. The fact that blood formation in the bone marrow decreases over the years further exacerbates the effects of iron deficiency. As a result, the blood can transport less oxygen in the body, which leads to chronic fatigue.
Certain supplements may be useful
In older and sick people it can be useful to supplement omega-3 fatty acids, protein, zinc and selenium. People with cardiovascular diseases or the risk of calcification of the blood vessels can also take omega-3 fatty acids as a precaution, as well as protein against the breakdown of muscles and the periodontium. Selenium maintains hair health and promotes wound healing. It must be supplemented for elderly people who no longer eat properly. Pregnant women should take folic acid in order to avoid deformities in the child. Caution is advised for all other people, because if cancer precursors have formed in the intestine, a high intake of folic acid can promote the growth of malignant tumours.
Beware of vitamin B12 deficiency
Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to neurological symptoms such as vertigo and severe headache attacks. Vitamin B12 is involved in blood formation, but is also important for cell growth and nerve function. In patients with Crohn’s disease, chronic inflammation in the intestine hinders the absorption of vitamin B12. The same can happen to people who take stomach acid inhibitors or blood-thinning drugs on a daily basis. They change the pH value in the stomach and thus inhibit the absorption of micronutrients. Diabetics who take metformin should also have their vitamin B12 levels checked regularly.
Before taking: Blood test by your doctor
However, not everyone who is tired, dizzy or eats little meat also has an iron or vitamin B12 deficiency: whether one needs a replacement can only be clarified by a blood test with the doctor. The premature intake of iron and vitamin preparations or other food supplements can also have harmful side effects: For example, too much vitamin E in capsule form promotes the development of lung cancer. Antioxidants such as vitamins C and E can make sport less effective. Years of taking high doses of vitamin B6 and B12 can increase the risk of lung cancer in men.
Food supplements only under medical control
Vitamin K2 has been promoted for some time as a miracle cure for cancer, osteoporosis and heart attacks. However, there is a lack of scientific evidence to this effect. In general, dietary supplements can impair the effects of chemotherapy and radiation in cancer patients. They should therefore only be used under medical supervision.
Food supplements (NEM) are foods and serve to supplement the normal (general) diet. NEM are concentrates and have a nutritional or physiological effect. For absorption, NEM are dosed in small, measured quantities.
NEM cannot replace a varied diet. They therefore do not compensate for nutritional deficiencies that can result from an unhealthy, unbalanced diet.
Since the LMSVG came into force on 20 January 2006, it has not been necessary for Austria to notify, register or register NEM.
The Department of Vegetable Food, Novel Food and Nutritional Supplements of the AGES of the ILMU Vienna is available for marketability testing of NEM in addition to the research institutes of the Länder and the authorised experts according to § 73 LMSVG.
NEM are no substitute for a varied and balanced diet.
The consumption of NEM cannot compensate for an “unhealthy” unbalanced diet. From a nutritional point of view, the consumption of NEM is not necessary for the healthy average population. Only in certain phases of life (e.g. women who wish to have children, pregnant women, top athletes) can temporary consumption of NEM make sense (e.g. folic acid for women who wish to have children). Sick persons should always discuss the consumption of NEM with their doctor. Further information on the nutritional evaluation of NEM can be found on the homepage of the Austrian Nutrition Society (ÖGE).
NEM are not “remedies
Again and again NEM are offered by dubious providers who are supposed to cure various diseases (e.g. cancer etc.). NEM are however – like all other food – no “remedies”. Further comprehensive information about dietary supplements can be found on the homepage of the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR, BRD).
Food supplement regulation
The main cornerstones of the NEM Regulation BGBl. II No. 88/2004 as amended are:
Food supplements may only be sold packaged to the final consumer. It is prohibited to use vitamins and minerals other than those listed in Appendix 1 in the forms listed in Appendix 2 for the manufacture of food supplements. For food supplements, the legally prescribed designation “food supplement” in accordance with the Food Information Ordinance (LMIV) is
In addition to the marking elements according to the LMKV, the marking of NEM must contain the following information:
Nutrient Categories and Recommended Consumption
The names of the categories of nutrients or other substances which characterise the product or an indication of the nature of those nutrients or other substances and the recommended daily intake in portions of the product
A warning that the recommended daily intake should not be exceeded and a warning that dietary supplements should not be used as a substitute for a varied diet. A third indication is intended to indicate that the products should be stored out of the reach of young children.
The labelling, presentation and advertising of food supplements shall not include any claim or give the impression that a balanced and varied diet in general does not provide adequate amounts of nutrients.
The quantity of nutrients or other substances having a nutritional or physiological effect contained in the product shall be indicated in numerical form on the label.
The quantity of nutrients or other substances shall be indicated per recommended daily intake of the product as indicated on the label.