What is a food supplement?

A Food supplement is defined under European Union (EU) legislation as ‘foodstuffs the purpose of which is to supplement the normal diet and which are concentrated sources of nutrients or other substances with a nutritional or physiological effect, alone or in combination, marketed in dose form, namely forms such as capsules, pastilles, tablets, pills and other similar forms, sachets of powder, ampoules of liquids, drop dispensing bottles, and other similar forms of liquids and powders’.

Who needs supplements?

Although nutritional needs should be met primarily from a wide variety of foods, for varying reasons some people including children, adults and those at risk of certain health conditions cannot reach the essential nutrient amounts by food and are recommended to use supplements and/or fortified foods. For example Vitamin D might be a concern among infants, children, and adults. UK Department of Health recommends Vitamin D supplementation.

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    Some individuals are limited in their food choices due to allergies, a medical condition or because they are following a vegetarian or vegan diet. For example, animal foods are the main source of vitamin B12, so people who follow a vegan diet need to eat fortified foods and/or take a supplement.
    In addition, women who could become pregnant need to obtain adequate folic acid from fortified foods (cereals and other grains), supplements or both, in addition to consuming folate from foods in a varied diet. Because it helps reduce the risk of some birth defects, folic acid is very important during childbearing years. If lab tests show that a woman’s iron status is low during pregnancy, her healthcare provider will recommend an iron supplement.
    Your physician can order tests to help determine if taking a supplement would benefit you. The results might show that you are low in a certain nutrient or you might discover that you are doing just fine.

Can we take supplements on our own, without a prescription?

Supplements are available for sale over the counter at the local pharmacies or online without a prescription. However, due to possible interactions with other prescribed or over-the-counter medicines or other supplements, you should always ask your physician or pharmacist before taking any product. It’s particularly necessary to ask your physician’s advice about taking a supplement if you’re pregnant, or you have a health condition or also, if giving a supplement to a child.

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What is Consumer Information?

All products labeled as a food supplement carry a Nutritional Information panel that lists the contents, amount of active ingredients per serving, and NRV percentage. You can also find if the product has any allergens in consumer information section. The manufacturer suggests the serving size, but you or your health care provider might decide that a different amount is more appropriate for you.

What are GMPs for food supplements?

Good manufacturing practice (GMP) is the minimum standard that a manufacturer must meet to assure that their products are consistently high in quality, from batch to batch, for their intended use. Good manufacturing practice guidelines provide guidance for manufacturing, testing, and quality assurance with the goal of safeguarding the health of consumers and patients as well as producing quality products.

What is the NRV% for a vitamin or mineral?

Many terms are used when referring to either the amount of a particular nutrient (such as calcium or vitamin D) you should get or the amount in a food or food supplement.
NRV is an abbreviation of ‘Nutrient Reference Value’ set for mineral and vitamins. NRV is EU guidance levels on the daily amount of vitamin or mineral that the average healthy person needs to prevent deficiency.