According to Professor Peter Jüni, several thousand deaths per year in Germany may be caused by vitamin supplements consumption. Peter Jüni is the Head of the Division of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics and the Director of CTU Bern, the University hospital's clinical trials unit (Switzerland). He based his projections on studies which focus on vitamin dietary supplementation.
The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) cautions on vitamin supplementation
The BfR at Berlin cautions that a one-sided, imbalanced diet cannot be corrected by taking food supplements. Food supplements are superfluous for healthy individuals on a normal diet. In a balanced diet the body has all the nutrients it needs. Normally, the additional intake of individual nutrients is not, therefore, necessary. In some situations targeted supplementation with individual nutrients may make sense.
Uniform European maximum levels urgently needed
Unlike medicinal products food supplements do not have to be registered with the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL). There are currently no binding maximum levels for the ingredients (nutrients or other substances with nutritional or physiological action) of supplements on either the national or the European level. An EU-wide regulation on valid maximum levels for vitamins and minerals is in the process of being elaborated.
Food supplements are foods and are intended to supplement the diet and must be safe. However, the mere fact that a food supplement is on the market does not mean that the purchaser can assume that this is a worthwhile or valuable food. Food supplements may also be on the market when their nutritional-physiological value is questionable.
In some situations targeted supplementation with individual nutrients may make sense, says the BfR:
During pregnancy and breastfeeding there is an elevated need for specific nutrients. The intake of essential nutrients by older people may also be insufficient for instance as a consequence of chewing or swallowing disorders or a loss of appetite. In these cases, dietary supplementation may be necessary or advisable. This should be done under medical supervision.
Data on nutrient intake indicate that the intake of a small number of vitamins and minerals like vitamin D, calcium, folic acid and iodine by some groups in the population is not in line with the intake recommendations of the German Nutrition Society (DGE e.V.). However this cannot generally be equated with insufficient intake or even a deficiency.
In the same way, both an insufficient and excessive supply of micro-nutrients, i.e. vitamins, minerals and trace elements, secondary plant substances can result in adverse health effects.
Nevertheless, the best nutritional strategy is still a balanced, diverse diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables. Food supplements are not substitutes of equal value.
Vitamins may be life-threatening
Pd Dr. Diana Rubin of the BfR reports that almost one third of Germans consume vitamins supplements aiming to stay healthy. Rubin says this is an ominous mistake, because vitamins may even be life-threatening, according to a broadcast program at NDR in July 2011.
Rubin stated that vitamins are no youth or beauty fountain, do not protect against cancer or heart diseases. On the contrary, some studies say that special vitamins like vitamin E and Vitamin A increase cancer risk. Too much is dangerous when vitamins are taken in synthetic form as capsules or pils. Therefore most experts warn against doing so.
Politicians call for more informations on vitamins
Prof. Karl Lauterbach calls for a proactive education of health officials, pharmacists and consumer concerning the health risks of vitamin supplements and have no mercy on the lobby of the supplement industry, according to Spiegel Online. Lauterbach is a German scientist and member of the Bundestag (SPD). He is professor of health economics and epidemiology at the University of Cologne. Lauterbach