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What is a Food Supplement?


Food supplements are mostly concentrates of various plants that are popularly used and have entopharmacological basis, and are made available to people. Food supplements contain vitamins, minerals, amino acids, essential fatty acids, and many other nutrients, including but not limited to other ingredients (glucosamine, chondroitin, collagen, hyaluronic acid, etc.).

Food supplements aim to maintain a healthy diet and replace vitamins, minerals, amino acids, etc. that are deficient in some cases. In recent years, many academic studies on food supplements have revealed that these products can help to support certain physiological functions or correct a disturbed balance. These are not medicinal products and therefore, although they are expected to have a pharmacological, immunological or metabolic effect, their use is not recommended for the treatment of any disease instead of primary therapy conducted by a physician, as clinical studies have not been conducted. In other words, the use of these products is not intended to treat diseases or change physiological functions in humans instead of primary therapy.


Are Food Supplements Safe?

In our country and the European Union, food supplements are subject to the regulations, regarding food and nutrients. EU legislation regulates the vitamins and minerals that can be used in food supplements. The European Commission has established harmonized rules for ingredients other than vitamins and minerals to protect consumers against potential health risks and publishes a list of substances known or suspected to have adverse health effects and whose use is therefore controlled. This similar list can also be accessed from the Food Safety Information System of the General Directorate of Food Control of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of the Republic of Turkey.


In May 2018, the European Commission published the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources Added to Food (ANS), guidance on the assessment of food sources and foods, and in December 2017, EFSA published the Dietary Reference Values ​​Summary report for nutrients , Food It has published the Overview of Tolerable Upper Intake Levels derived by the Scientific Committee (SCF) and the EFSA Dietetic Food, Nutrition and Allergy Panel (NDA).


EFSA has carried out safety assessments of six substances used as ingredients in food supplements for which safety concerns have been raised by the European Commission or Member States, and in this assessment: Ephedra species , Yohimbe (Pausinystalia yohimbe (K. Schum) Pierre ex Beille) , Hydroxyanthracene derivatives , Green tea published reports on catechins obtained from red yeast rice , monocolins and alpha-lipoic acid (thioctic acid) and the risk of insulin autoimmune syndrome (Hirata disease) . Thus, the European Commission introduced various regulations and revealed the risks and benefits of food supplements, and tried to reduce the risks that may occur due to uncontrolled use.


In our country, supplementary foods are defined in the Turkish Food Codex Supplementary Foods Communiqué (Communiqué No: 2013/49) created by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry within the framework of Law No. 5996, as 'In order to supplement normal nutrition, vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates, fiber, fat. Capsules, tablets, lozenges, disposable powder packs, liquid ampoules, droppers, alone or in mixtures of concentrates or extracts of nutrients such as acids, amino acids, or substances of plant, plant and animal origin, bioactive substances and similar substances that have nutritional or physiological effects. It is expressed as 'products prepared in bottles and other similar liquid or powder forms with a determined daily intake dose'. As can be understood from the definition, food supplements are ingredients or products consumed in addition to the daily diet if needed. In this context, all authorities and responsibilities regarding food safety and security, which is very important, 'Veterinary Services, Plant Health, Food and Feed Law' No. 5996 came into force on 13 June 2010 and within the scope of the relevant law, 'Turkish Food Codex Communiqué on Food Supplements' and 'Turkish Food Codex Nutrition and Health Declarations Regulation' was published on 16 August 2013 and 26 January 2017, respectively. The botanical species to be included in the chemical composition of food supplements must comply with the plant list created by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry officials and announced on the official website of the relevant Ministry. On the other hand, other components in the final product must comply with the 'List of Substances Restricted and/or Prohibited for Use in the Production of Food Supplements' published on the website of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, which is another important issue that must be complied with in terms of legislation.


The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, which has the authority and responsibility for inspection in accordance with the 'Regulation on the Import, Production, Processing and Market Placement of Supplementary Foods', which came into force on May 2, 2013 within the scope of Law No. 5996, is responsible for supplements that have not been approved in accordance with the Approval Procedures for Approval Procedures for Supplementary Foods in unregistered enterprises. It absolutely does not allow the production, processing, sale, import of Medicinal Foods and the deception of consumers with false promotions (performance enhancing, weight loss, weight gain, smoking cessation aid and treatment of various diseases, etc.).

As can be seen, food supplements are not products that are produced uncontrollably and are not subject to any regulation, they are products that are not used for the treatment and prevention of diseases, but are consumed by consumers at their own discretion, which do not pose a risk to patients and can support their treatment when used. Of course, there are risks associated with these products, and risks generally arise due to adulterations, unconscious and uninformed formulations, doses, dosages, pharmaceutical forms that are not based on any academic study, and impurities of plants thought to be effective. Reducing these and similar risks depends on many factors such as consumers' attention, knowledge, manufacturer's reliability, etc.

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