Safefood issues warning over level of food supplements being consumed

New research¹ launched today by safefood has revealed that almost half of Irish adults (48%) are taking a food supplement with the majority (60%) taking Vitamin D. Other popular options are multivitamins and minerals (41%) and vitamin C (34%), with almost half of parents in the survey (47%) reported giving supplements to their children. Current guidelines advise that for healthy individuals, only two supplements are recommended; vitamin D for those under 5s and over 65s, and folic acid for people who could become pregnant.

Introducing the research, Dr Aileen McGloin, Director of Nutrition with safefood said “From the research, it would appear that many people are spending money on supplements they likely don’t need. While it’s encouraging that Vitamin D is the most commonly consumed supplement, other multivitamins and mineral options appear to be overconsumed. We would advise people to discuss their diet with a trusted healthcare professional first before spending money on other supplements.”

The research, which was undertaken by Ulster University suggests that food supplement use may be on the increase among the general adult population. When asked why they purchased, “generally supporting the immune system” was one of the main perceived advantages that emerged from focus groups with participants for example “preventing colds and flu”. Those most likely to use food supplements were women and those from a higher socioeconomic status. They believed that taking supplements would be beneficial to their health, good for them, or that it would be wise to do so. Parents who were supplement users were more than twice as likely to give their child a food supplement than parents who were not food supplement users.

Joana De Silva, Chief Specialist in Nutrition with safefood added “We know that a healthy balanced diet is the best way to support good health. Excess water-soluble vitamins like Vitamin C for example can’t be used and will be eliminated from the body, so in reality, they’re a waste of money. It would be much better for overall health if people were making changes to what they eat rather than taking extra tablets. However, if you have a specific medical condition or need to restrict certain foods, then you may need to take supplements. Our advice would be to discuss this with a trusted healthcare professional.”

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¹The report “Food Supplements: exploring our reasons for taking them” is available to download from the safefood website at www.safefood.net/news

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