What are dietary supplements?

What are dietary supplements?

According to the Act on Food and Nutrition Safety of August 25, 2006, a dietary supplement is a food supplementing a normal diet, being a concentrated source of vitamins or minerals or other substances with a nutritional or other physiological effect, single or complex, placed on the market in a dosage form, in the form of: capsules, tablets, dragées and other similar forms, powder sachets, liquid ampoules, dropper bottles and other similar forms of liquids and powders intended to be consumed in small unit quantities, excluding products with the properties of a medicinal product within the meaning of the pharmaceutical law.
What are drugs?

Pursuant to the Pharmaceutical Law Act, a medicinal product, i.e. a drug, is a substance or a mixture of substances that are assigned the property of preventing or treating diseases occurring in humans or animals, or administered to a human or animal to make a diagnosis or to restore, improve or modify physiological functions. the human or animal organism; the term "medicinal product" does not include feed additives regulated in separate regulations.
Dietary supplements and medications

According to the above descriptions, a drug is a product intended to prevent or treat diseases. Drugs can also modify the physiological functions of the body, e.g. during diagnostic tests. In turn, dietary supplements belong to one of the food groups and have a nutritional or other physiological effect. Medicines and dietary supplements may contain the same substances, e.g. vitamin C, vitamin D, ginkgo biloba extract or milk thistle, however, they differ in several features. The following are taken into account:

    composition (active ingredient in a certain dose);
    pharmacological properties based on scientific knowledge;
    product presentation;
    method of use;
    the risk associated with the use of the product.

In medicines, doses of active substances have a healing effect, while dietary supplements are only nutritional. Dietary supplements must be properly presented - neither their advertising nor their packaging may suggest that it is a product with therapeutic properties.
What else distinguishes a dietary supplement from a drug?

Both drugs and dietary supplements can be purchased at pharmacies. As a result, patients often do not know the difference between these products. Dietary supplements and medications are produced in a similar way and take similar forms, but the raw materials used differ. Dietary supplements are made of raw materials whose quality is defined as food grade. Medicines, on the other hand, are made of pharmaceutical raw materials. The use of dietary supplements may be advisable when certain minerals, vitamins, plant extracts or amino acids are not supplied to the body with the diet. Medicines do not supplement the diet.

An important element that distinguishes a dietary supplement from a drug is the control of drugs. They must meet all the requirements specified in Polish and European law. Medicines are constantly monitored - their composition is mainly examined. Dietary supplements are not subject to such strict controls. They must meet the requirements of the food law for foodstuffs. The manufacturer, when submitting a dietary supplement to the register, is not obliged to provide documentation on the composition of the preparation, method of production and product quality.
What supplements are worth paying attention to?

Dietary supplements are products that can be purchased in pharmacies, stores, and also via the Internet. It is best to purchase such products in a pharmacy that ensures proper storage of dietary supplements and purchases them from reliable sources.

    You should avoid buying dietary supplements from unreliable sources, as taking them may pose a health risk.

On the Internet you can often find counterfeit products that encourage you to buy with a lower price and colorful advertising. To be sure that a dietary supplement has been registered in the list of dietary supplements, you can search for it via the portal of the Chief Sanitary Inspectorate.

    The intention to use a dietary supplement should be consulted with your attending physician or pharmacist.

When choosing a dietary supplement that contains a plant extract, it is worth paying attention to whether it is standardized. Standardization determines the amount of active substance in a single dose of the product. Thanks to this information, we can check whether the product contains compounds that are expected to affect our body.

For example, flavone glycosides are a substance with activity in ginkgo biloba extracts. If the manufacturer specifies their amount in his preparation, we are able to predict the impact on our body of taking a given dietary supplement.

The second symbol that can be found on the packaging of a dietary supplement is DER (Drug Extract Ratio). It does not say how much active substance is contained in a given supplement, but it specifies the amount of raw material from which the extract was obtained.

It is worth paying attention to whether there is any of these markings on the packaging of the dietary supplement. It will help you determine what the dietary supplement contains and what its quality is.

When choosing a dietary supplement, it is worth asking the pharmacist about the composition of the preparation. Many dietary supplements, e.g. with magnesium, contain a chemical compound that supplies few magnesium ions to the body. The knowledge of pharmacists in this matter is huge, so it is worth asking their opinion when choosing a preparation.


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