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Maximum recommended amounts for vitamins and minerals in food supplements
About one in three adults regularly take supplements, about a quarter of which are more than one product a day. According to experts, such remedies are often just nonsense, but some can even be harmful to health. The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) has now updated its maximum recommendations for vitamins and minerals in food supplements.
Almost every third German adult takes food supplements
As reported by the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), around 25 to 30 percent of adults in Germany regularly use food supplements (NEM). Around a quarter of them take more than one product a day. NEM are more often taken by women than by men and especially by people over 35 years of age with higher educational status. People with a healthier lifestyle and a balanced diet are more likely to use NEM. The manufacturers of such products often promise health benefits, but some remedies can even harm your health. The BfR has now updated its maximum recommendations for vitamins and minerals in food supplements.
In addition to vitamins and minerals, some of the products also contain other substances with a physiological effect such as amino acids, fatty acids, plant extracts or microorganisms.
The advertising promises positive effects for health, well-being and improved performance. But in general, a balanced and varied diet provides the healthy body with all the vital nutrients.
If additional high-dose nutritional supplements are taken and possibly fortified foods are consumed, the risk of undesirable health effects due to high nutrient intake increases.
Risk of overdoses
Those who take high-dose products sometimes have the risk of overdosing, even if they comply with the daily consumption recommended by the manufacturer.
A study also showed that some dietary supplements pose health risks even in conventional doses.
And some such agents can even increase the risk of cancer tumors, Austrian scientists reported.
Maximum amounts for vitamins and minerals checked
The BfR has now checked the maximum amounts proposed for vitamins and minerals in 2004 and revised them based on new scientific knowledge.
"The peculiarity of the risk assessment of vital nutrients such as vitamins and minerals is that both the risks of a deficiency and an oversupply must be taken into account," said BfR President Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel.
"According to the current state of knowledge, products that comply with our recommendations and are taken in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions pose no health risk for people aged 15 and over," emphasizes BfR President Andreas Hensel.
The results have been published in the Journal of Consumer Protection and Food Safety.
There are currently no binding maximum quantities
In the past, the BfR has made extensive statements on health benefits and risks from food supplements (NEM) and has informed consumers about problems that may be associated with the consumption of such products.
Binding maximum levels for vitamins and minerals in non-precious metals currently do not exist at national or European level, although in Germany and other European countries various models for maximum volume derivation have been developed and discussed in recent years.
The new maximum levels were derived taking three main parameters into account: the tolerable upper daily intake levels (Tolerable Upper Intake Level, UL) derived from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the intake amounts of vitamins and minerals through the usual diet and the respective intake reference values (Recommended Daily Allowance; RDA).
The safe intake available for food supplements (and fortified other foods) was derived by the BfR by calculating the difference between the UL and the nutrient intake from the usual diet.
Provide sufficient supplementary options for people with low nutrient intake
In order to ensure that products containing nutrients in these quantities are not only valid for adults, but also do not pose any health risks to adolescents according to the current state of knowledge, the age group of 15 to 17 year olds was chosen as the reference group for the maximum quantity derivation.
In addition, an uncertainty factor of 2 was used for almost every nutrient. This is to take into account a possible multiple exposure by taking different nutritional supplements.
The maximum amounts proposed by the BfR aim to offer sufficient supplementary options for people with low nutrient intake without significantly increasing the risk of ULs being exceeded if the nutrient intake is adequate.
The maximum quantity proposals initially only refer to food supplements and, unless otherwise stated, apply to young people aged 15 and over and adults. For some of the maximum quantities, the BfR recommends additional mandatory information on the products.
BfR also draws attention to the fact that new scientific knowledge and future market developments may require adjustments to the maximum quantities.
Dietary supplements are normally not necessary
In Germany, the conventional diet absorbs sufficient amounts of micronutrients with a few exceptions. From a nutritional point of view, food supplements are therefore generally not necessary.
This is all the more true since dietary supplements are more likely to be used by people with a healthier lifestyle and a balanced diet.
International scientific studies also show that an additional intake of micronutrients beyond what is required is not expected to have any positive effects.
In view of this, the maximum amounts proposed by the BfR serve primarily to protect the large part of the well-supplied population from excessive nutrient intakes.
The maximum quantity proposals of the BfR are the basis for the creation of legal regulations in Germany and thus a decision-making aid for risk management for risk-reducing measures. (ad)