Dietary supplement

In most cases, a well-balanced, activity-oriented diet is sufficient to meet the body’s daily requirements of essential nutrients. Sometimes, however, additional intake is required to avoid or remedy deficiencies. It is in this context that doctors prescribe dietary supplements.

What is a dietary supplement?

Food supplements are non-medicated substances enriched with essential nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. They are designed to correct various deficiencies, and come in capsule, powder or oral tablet form.

A dietary supplement provides the body with essential nutrients, in case of deficiency.

Food supplements are generally composed of nutrients that are easily assimilated by the body, plant extracts or substances with nutritional or physiological purposes. They may also contain additives, flavorings or other ingredients authorized for consumption.

Why take dietary supplements?

Doctors recommend dietary supplements in cases of essential nutrient deficiency confirmed by medical examination. They also prescribe them to patients at risk of more or less severe deficiency, depending on their lifestyle, age or condition.

Lifestyle food supplements

Vegetarians and/or vegans are at high risk of essential nutrient deficiency because they don’t eat meat or animal by-products. Sportsmen and women, body-builders and people who are very active in life may also need extra vitamins or mineral salts to stay in shape. Last but not least, a person on a special diet needs to take food supplements to make up for the shortfall caused by deprivation.

Dietary supplements according to age

Elderly people generally need protein or vitamin supplements to keep them fit and boost their immune system. Menopausal women also require a special intake of essential nutrients to alleviate symptoms and maintain good health.

Dietary supplements according to condition

Doctors often prescribe iron supplements for women with heavy periods. Pregnant women, meanwhile, often require calcium, iron and vitamin B9 supplements. Vitamin E also promotes fertility. Last but not least, patients suffering from a particular illness or a constant state of stress also take these substances in the majority of cases.

Other reasons to take dietary supplements

Many people also choose to take dietary supplements for aesthetic reasons. Vitamin E, for example, promotes the regrowth of hair, beard and nails. Vitamin C improves skin health and appearance by boosting collagen and protein production. Dietary supplements also help those who feel too thin to gain weight or slim down.

What precautions should I take?


Dietary supplements are not medicines, even though they look like them. They are therefore generally sold over the counter and available without a doctor’s prescription.

A healthcare professional can guide you in the correct dosage of a dietary supplement.

However, it is advisable to consult a professional before starting any treatment, in order to determine the correct dosage. He or she will determine the quantity to be taken per day according to your general state of health and the results of your blood tests. An overdose can have undesirable consequences, such as constipation or diarrhoea, heart trouble or headaches.


Maintaining the right balance of essential nutrients in the body is essential to your health and the proper functioning of your body. Some elements prevent the assimilation or action of others when found in excess in the body. This can aggravate illnesses or even create new ones. Some food supplements, such as St. John’s Wort, interact with many drugs. It is therefore important to inform your doctor of your current treatments before starting a course of treatment.


Allergy risks are always present, even if dietary supplements are not really medicines. It is quite possible that you are intolerant to one of the ingredients. It is therefore advisable to keep a close eye on your body and your condition, and to report any unusual changes to your doctor immediately. Allergic reactions can be fatal if measures are not taken in time. You should also tell the professional if you suffer from any particular medical condition, such as kidney failure or high blood pressure.

Do food supplements replace drug treatments?

Food supplements do not generally cure illnesses, except in cases where they are directly linked to a deficiency. They optimize the efficacy of treatments, strengthen the patient or alleviate certain symptoms, but in no way replace medication. This is one of the reasons why it’s always important to consult a health professional before taking these substances to help remedy fatigue, cramps or painful periods. Much more serious illnesses may lurk behind these symptoms, and soothing them will not cure them.

What to eat during the cure

A course of dietary supplements must be accompanied by a healthy, balanced diet, whatever your reasons for taking them. Even in the case of a slimming diet or vegan lifestyle, these substances should only be taken as supplements. Long-term, uninterrupted intake is strongly discouraged. It’s also important to drink enough water (at least 1.5 liters a day) and engage in regular physical activity, such as walking.

Dietary supplements must be accompanied by a healthy diet

In a nutshell

Dietary supplements help to make up for deficiencies in the body’s essential nutrients, for a wide variety of reasons. It is strongly recommended that you consult your doctor before starting a course of treatment, to avoid undesirable effects due to drug interactions, intolerances or overdosing. It is also important to maintain a healthy, balanced diet during treatment.

Going further with dietary supplements

If you’d like to find out more, the following articles may be of interest.

The opinion of dieticians / nutritionists:

Sandra Bois, dietician since 2014, tells you what she thinks about dietary supplements.

Iseline Rossi, also a dietician since 2014, tells you whether she thinks dietary supplements are useful.

Dietary supplements that can help you lose weight

Effective and powerful fat burners

Best natural appetite suppressants

The best-known dietary supplements

PhenQ, a recognized fat burner

Anaca3, the kings of marketing

Zotrim, the appetite suppressant validated by several scientific studies

Brulafine, the latest fat burner


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