[Article updated on 19/09/2023]
What is a food supplement?
According to a directive from the European Parliament*, food supplements are “ foods whose purpose is to supplement the normal diet and which constitute a concentrated source of nutrients or other substances having a nutritional or physiological effect alone or in combination…”
Before reading on
I’m not an expert in this field, but I am passionate about nutrition and health.
The articles you’ll find on my site are the result of in-depth research that I’d like to share with you. However, I would like to stress that I am not a health professional and that my advice should in no way replace that of a qualified physician. I’m here to guide you, but it’s important that you consult a professional for specific questions or medical concerns. Your well-being is important. So be sure to consult the appropriate experts and take the best possible care of yourself.
There are many forms of food supplements available on the market whether they are based on plants, vitamins and minerals or other concentrated substances. These supplements can be found in the form of capsules, drops, powders, etc.
They highlight various benefits to consumers such as help with weight loss, better immunity for winter, improved sleep, etc.
Food supplements are not recognized as medicines. They cannot therefore claim a therapeutic effect. In addition, unlike medicines, these products do not require marketing authorization to be marketed. It is the manufacturer who is responsible for the compliance of food supplements placed on the market with the regulatory provisions in force, both in terms of safety and consumer information.
*Directive 2002/46/EC of the European Parliament, transposed by Decree No. 2006-352 of March 20, 2006
With a varied and balanced diet, vitamin and mineral deficiencies are rare in the general population. However, certain diets or certain periods of life may be at greater risk of deficiencies.
Here are the main nutrients concerned:
Vitamin D: it plays an essential role in the quality of bone and muscle tissue as well as in strengthening our immune system. However, the majority of French people do not consume enough of it, particularly because the main source of vitamin D is not food but comes from sunshine and our exposure to the sun. Thus, 75% of the population (Suvimax report from 1997) is said to be deficient in vitamin D and this does not seem to have improved over the years. For children, vitamin D supplementation is recommended from the first days of life until age 18. In adults, it is recommended to have a blood test several times a year (mainly in autumn and at the end of winter). Your doctor will then be able to assess whether supplementation is necessary.
You can also find supplements in the form of drops in pharmacies to act as prevention. The recommended dose is often between 800 and 1000 IU/day (be sure to respect the dosages recommended by the manufacturers). However, if you opt for this type of product, be careful not to combine it with other supplements containing vitamin D.
Magnesium: if you suffer from anxiety, hyperemotionality, irritability or even cramps, muscle tremors… then perhaps, like 70% of the French population (Suvimax report from 1997), you suffer of magnesium deficiency. The maximum authorized daily dose of magnesium is 300 mg/day for food supplements because part of the magnesium is also provided by food (oleaginous fruits, mineral waters rich in magnesium, whole grains, dried vegetables, etc.). In addition, to bring magnesium into the cell and maintain it there, it is necessary to take a supplement also containing vitamin B6 and taurine.
Vitamin B12: if you follow a vegan diet, your diet is devoid of vitamin B12 because it is only present in foods of animal origin. Likewise, if you follow a vegetarian diet. Indeed, even if you consume dairy products and eggs, you should consume quantities higher than recommended to have sufficient coverage. Supplementation is necessary by favoring vitamin B12 in the form of cyanocobalamin, either daily of 25 µg per day or weekly of 2000 µg per week or monthly of 5000 µg per month.
Omega 3 (EPA and DHA): it is necessary to consume fatty fish such as mackerel or sardines at least once/week to cover our needs for omega 3 of animal origin. Omega 3 cannot be produced by our body and they play an essential role in the development and proper functioning of the brain and the nervous system or even in the cardiovascular field.
Therefore, if you are a low consumer of fish and seafood, particularly fatty fish, supplementation with EPA and DHA type omega 3s is recommended.
Attention ! It is not without risk!
However, when consuming food supplements, there may be a risk of exceeding safety limits.
For this, be careful!
Here are some tips that will help you limit these risks:
- Observe the precautions for use indicated on the packaging.
- Avoid multiple takes. Indeed, if you take several food supplements, they may contain minerals and vitamins in common and therefore, even if the safety limits are respected in each of the supplements, the accumulated consumption of several supplements can lead to an overdose.
- Beware of miracle products! Many supplements on the market present to you “magical” effects on your health, your weight… but the existence of miraculous products has never been proven. Especially since these products are often mixtures of numerous nutrients or plants. However, the more compounds there are in a product, the more likely they are to be underdosed. Your product will then have little effectiveness because it will have little probability of filling your deficiencies. It is therefore better to favor a supplement with a single compound or in combination with 1 or 2 other compounds.
- Beware of contraindications if you are taking medication! Some supplements may be incompatible with taking medication (for example, taking anti-depressants) or incompatible with each other.
In conclusion: if you wish to take nutritional supplements or have the impression of suffering from deficiencies, it is best to contact a health professional to support you.