The UK food supplements industry is worth £385m a year. With some supplements not living up to the health claims on their packaging, we could be wasting an awful lot of money on products we don’t need.
Our recent research into food supplements revealed that a third of adults regularly take supplements. This is despite government advice recommending that most people should just eat a balanced and varied diet to get the vitamins they need.
The only people who need to take a supplement (unless it’s been prescribed by a doctor) should be women trying to conceive and in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy (folic acid), children between six months and five years (multivitamin containing vitamins A, C and D), and the over 65s (vitamin D).
Wasting money on food supplements
So why do so many people take supplements, despite not needing them? It’s because they believe they have a positive effect on their health. For example, when we asked people who take glucosamine supplements, 94% said they believed their supplement supports healthy joints and cartilage. However, this health claim has been rejected by the European Union.
Over the past five years, all health claims made on products such as food, drink and supplements have had to be submitted to the EU’s European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Of 44,000 claims made, only 248 have been approved.
Our research brought Bioglan Probiotic capsules, Bimuno Prebiotic powder and Seven Seas Cardiomax to our attention. All made unproven health claims on their packaging and websites. These related to how they help maintain digestive health such as ‘‘helps maintain digestive balance’’ or ‘‘for a healthy heart”.
Healthy joints and bones
Now, if you do want to take a supplement that’s proven to support healthy joints, take a multivitamin containing vitamins C, D, copper manganese and zinc, as all of these have joint care claims that have been authorised by the EU. A multivitamin’s a lot cheaper too – it costs between 3p and 16p a day, compared to glucosamine supplements which cost 30p to £1 a day. Over the course of a year, you could save up to £354!
We’d like to see all ambiguous and exaggerated claims completely removed from all food supplement packaging, so you can feel confident you’re getting a fair deal.
Do you think supplements are a waste of money? Or do you take supplements regularly and swear by the effect they’ve had on your health?