Dietary supplements: Are vitamin supplements dangerous?
Who needs vitamins in dietary supplements? In truth, only a few People do.
Dietary supplements are in vogue. According to the German Association of Food Law and Food Science (BLL), turnover of the supplements was 1.44 billion euros in 2018. A growing trend. However, many People who decide to take supplements do so without suffering from a deficiency and without consulting a doctor or naturopath. Very few People know that an unnecessary intake of dietary supplements is associated with potential dangers.
Vitamins in dietary supplements can be dangerous if the concentration level is too high
"Up to 30 percent of the population regularly takes over-the-counter dietary supplements. Most of them are completely unaware of what they actually contain and whether they really need them," says Farid Zitoun, health expert at nabo (short for ‘Naturheilzentrum Bottrop’). "In fact, many supplements contain vitamins at too high a concentration and can do more harm than good in the long term." Similarly, the German Federal Office for Risk Assessment (BfR) warns consumers against taking too high a concentration of vitamins, as can be found in many supplements.
Are the ingredients in dietary supplements controlled?
However, vitamin concentrations that are too high aren’t the only possible reason to avoid dietary supplements. Unlike medicines, they are not necessarily checked before they are introduced onto the market. Instead, the manufacturers are responsible for ensuring compliance with applicable guidelines. (https://www.bvl.bund.de/DE/01_Lebensmittel/03_Verbraucher/04_NEM/NEM_node.html) They can theoretically bring their products onto the market with partially questionable ingredients that can have a negative impact on health.
Have the manufacturers’ advertising promises been verified?
However, the manufacturers' tricks go even further in some cases. Many dietary supplements are advertised with so-called ‘health claims’, which suggest a positive effect of the supplement on certain bodily functions. The German Pharmaceutical Industry Association (BPI) warns, however, that many of these claims have not been examined, are unverified, and thus can represent exaggerated or even false promises. (https://www.bpi.de/de/nachrichten/detail/health-claims-gesundheitsbezogene-angaben)
Who needs dietary supplements?
The intake of vitamins in dietary supplements usually only makes sense if there is actually a deficiency. However, according to the German Nutrition Society (DGE), the majority of the population in Germany already gets its daily recommended amount of vitamins and nutrients through its diet. "Even if the recommended amounts for the daily intake are not achieved, a deficiency is not automatically the result", says Zitoun. "The body learns to adapt to certain circumstances, and gets the maximum out of its diet."
Nevertheless, some People have an increased risk of suffering from a deficiency. For example, those who cannot spend time outdoors because they are bedridden risk suffering from a lack of vitamin D. Vegetarians and vegans, on the other hand, often have a lack of vitamin B12. It is recommended that pregnant women and nursing mothers supplement their diet with certain nutrients. In principle, the intake of dietary supplements should always be discussed with a doctor or a naturopath who can determine a deficiency via a blood test.
If you have any questions about dietary supplements, seek advice!
Consumers who are looking for more detailed information on dietary supplements would be best advised to consult a doctor or naturopath. More on the topic: "Digging deeper into detary supplements: why many swear by them and who can really benefit?" with a video on the Naturheilzentrum Bottrop Tumblr blog. In their current lifestyle video, the Bottrop-based vlogger, Farid Zitoun and his colleague, Christian Rüger from NABO extensively dealt with questions about self-medication as regards dietary supplements for readers and those interested in this topic. The answers and info can now be read here: (LINK to Tumblr)