What are dietary supplements?
According to Section 1 of the Food Supplements Ordinance, food supplements are foods that are intended to supplement the general diet. So far, so clear. They represent a concentrate of nutrients or other substances with nutritional or physiological effects and are put on the market in dosed form.
With nutrients are meant vitamins and minerals, the other substances also include, for example, amino acids, fatty acids, and fiber. For more information about supplements visit https://www.medisupps.com/
Dietary supplements must not interfere with our natural metabolism
Basically, when a substance has a pharmacological effect, it interacts with the body – mostly with a receptor in our cells. It either causes a reaction or blocks the interaction with another substance. So something changes in the body due to the external influence. Medicines mostly work in this way. Medicine supplements, on the other hand, do not interfere with the body’s natural metabolism but are only intended to support it in its normal work.
No legal obligation to adhere to the maximum levels
After all, food supplements must be reported to the Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety before a product is placed on the market. From there the information goes to the food control authorities of the federal states. This is how the products should be monitored. However, the responsibility for safety lies with the manufacturers. These should adhere to the maximum quantities set by the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment – they are not yet legally obliged to do so.
Careless consumption can have dangerous consequences
All the more so as a Swedish study from 2013 shows the consequences of careless use of calcium: It suggests that taking too high doses of calcium in women can increase the risk of heart disease and even the death rate. The data of more than 60,000 women were examined, an average of 19 years was included in the study. There were no conflicts of interest here. The calcium doses used in women at increased risk were higher than those of conventional calcium supplements. Nevertheless, the study shows the possible consequences of careless consumption.
A quick recommendation: should you take dietary supplements?
Healthy people who have a reasonably balanced diet and are regularly outside do not need food supplements. But there are still people for whom certain food supplements can be helpful and are also recommended:
Babies should receive vitamin K from their pediatrician shortly after birth and take vitamin D daily in their first year and in the second winter – parents are given suitable tablets for this.
Dietary supplements are also sometimes recommended for older people, as nutrients are no longer absorbed as efficiently as they get older.
Overdose and drug interactions
“Anyone who belongs to one of the groups for which food supplements can be useful, or who suspect a deficiency, should talk to their family doctor about it.” Because at least with some nutrients, a long-term intake of high doses can lead to side effects. In addition, food supplements can influence each other or interact with drugs. Doctors should keep such factors in mind and include them in their recommendations.
What happens in the event of a deficiency?
First of all, we have to mention again that too little supply (measured against the DGE reference values) does not automatically mean a deficiency. In Germany, depending on the nutrient, there are people who are not well supplied. However, true vitamin deficiency diseases rarely occur with us.
1. First of all, there is a marginal coverage of needs, in which the body reserves are reduced.
2. This is followed by subclinical deficiency: fewer vitamins are released through the urine and unspecific deficiency symptoms occur that disappear and leave no lasting damage as soon as the supply is sufficient again.
3. Finally, there is the manifest vitamin deficiency, in which clinically relevant, measurable disorders or characteristic deficiency symptoms occur. If this severe deficiency persists, the symptoms cannot be reversed.
A real deficiency can occur in people who consistently take in too few nutrients, for example, due to an eating disorder or an unbalanced diet. Chronic diarrhea also hinders the absorption of nutrients. Some people also have a higher need due to illnesses or interactions with other drugs.