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What Exactly Is A Supplement?

Food supplements are freely available, i.e. not only in pharmacies. Some are also offered in the context of alternative medical treatments. They may not work according to law however like a medicament, thus for example the blood pressure or the blood sugar mirror to lower. If a product had such an effect, it would have to be approved as a drug.

Through dietary supplements, the body may ingest many more of these substances than would be possible with a normal diet. So far, there are no legally binding limits for them, only recommendations of the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment. However, it is planned to introduce such limits at European level.

As the name suggests, dietary supplements are products that are intended to supplement normal nutrition. They are offered as tablets, capsules, powders or liquids, for example. They contain nutrients such as vitamins or minerals, which also occur in normal foods, but in concentrated form and often in high dosages. A dietary supplement can contain herbal substances such as St. John’s wort and garlic, but also animal and fish oil.

What are the quality and safety requirements for dietary supplements?

According to the law, dietary supplements are classified as foods and not as medicines. Pharmaceuticals are pharmacologically active substances that influence the body and its functions in a special way. They are used to alleviate or prevent complaints and diseases. A food supplement must not have a pharmacological effect, it should only supply the body with nutrients. In terms of quality and safety, food supplements are therefore subject to different regulations than chemical or herbal medicinal products.

As with other foods, responsibility for the safety of food supplements rests with manufacturers and distributors. A food supplement must be registered with the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety. In the case of food supplements, the authorities only register which substances are indicated on the label. However, the authorities can also carry out random checks on the products.

As food supplements are not medicinal products, manufacturers may not advertise the elimination, alleviation or prevention of disease or the suitability for a particular indication. Therefore, the products are often advertised with general statements such as “supports the immune system”, “has a balancing effect on the hormone balance” or “to support healthy joint function”. However, such claims are usually not proven and say nothing about an actual health benefit of the remedies.

Anyone considering taking dietary supplements should ask themselves beforehand:

  1. Why do I want to take this?
  2. What other ways are there to promote my health?
  3. Do I have a disadvantage if I do not take the remedy?
  4. Are there any scientific studies that show that this drug has a benefit?