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Nutrients supply? Plate rather than pill!

03/2019, 17.01.2019

The BfR is providing information on the benefits and health risks of food supplements at International Green Week

Roughly a third of adults in Germany regularly take vitamin tablets, mineral capsules or other food supplements. "Many products promise positive effects on health, wellbeing and performance, but they can also be connected with health risks," explains BfR President, Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel. "A balanced and varied diet is usually the best basis for staying healthy." Visitors to the BfR stand at International Green Week in Berlin can find out all about the situations in which it can be useful for people to supplement their own diet specifically, how food supplements take effect in the body and how untrustworthy preparations can be recognised. In line with the motto "Nutrients supply? Plate rather than pill!", the BfR will be turning the topic of nutrients into an interactive experience from 18 to 27 January. 

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The BfR is presenting itself at International Green Week with live cooking shows in which a TV chef will be explaining along with BfR experts which foods are particularly nutritious and how best to prepare them. At BfR Stand 146 on the Adventure Farm (Hall 3.2), an oversized mouth will be talking to visitors and inviting them to take part in a quiz that gives insights into the world of vitamins and minerals. In addition to this, anyone with an interest can test their knowledge on the Nutrient Carousel or at the interactive nutrition type station which points the way to "Shopping properly means being well provided with nutrients". The very smallest children can track down the super powers in food in a Kids' Rally.

The goal is to sensitise consumers for the careful use of food supplements and explain the possible risks to them. In most cases, the intake of food supplements is unnecessary, because a balanced and varied diet provides a healthy body with everything it needs. Only in certain cases does it make sense for people to supplement their diet with specific nutrients. An example of this is folic acid in women who hope to have children or who are in the early stages of pregnancy, because it lowers the risk of a neural tube defect (NTD) in the child. Furthermore, people who consume plant-based foods only should take vitamin B12 additionally, otherwise a deficiency can result in the long term. The intake of vitamin D is only recommended when a sufficient supply cannot be guaranteed via food or from the body’s own vitamin D production through solar radiation. The risk groups include infants and persons with a dark skin colour, as well as people with restricted mobility, chronically ill and elderly people in need of care. Excessive vitamin D intake can result in the occurrence of undesired effects such as the formation of kidney stones.

Consumers are often unaware that food supplements are regarded as foods in Germany and that, unlike drugs, they are not subject to an approval procedure but only to mandatory registration at the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL). It is primarily the manufacturers who are responsible for their safety. Monitoring of the traffic of food supplements, including control of product labelling and compliance with food law provisions, is the task of the food monitoring authorities of the federal states (Laender). When purchasing food supplements through the internet, it should be taken into account that the marketed products may possibly not comply with German and European food law provisions. The BfR recommends that consumers check carefully that the provider is trustworthy before purchasing.

About the BfR

The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientifically independent institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) in Germany. It advises the Federal Government and Federal Laender on questions of food, chemical and product safety. The BfR conducts its own research on topics that are closely linked to its assessment tasks.

This text version is a translation of the original German text which is the only legally binding version.

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