Which supplements are the least effective?

Finally clear text for dietary supplements

The vast majority of the population is now adequately supplied with nutrients. Nevertheless, every third person in Germany takes dietary supplements, according to a current Forsa survey commissioned by consumer advice centers. The advertisements roll over themselves with melodious promises that vitamins, minerals or exotic plant substances help us to lead a healthier life. Confused about this, consumers often buy food supplements as a precaution, but receive too little reliable information about the products and therefore underestimate possible risks.

Two misconceptions are particularly common. This is shown by the current, representative Forsa survey on behalf of the consumer advice centers:

1. No positive effects

The majority (51 percent) of the 1001 respondents consider food supplements to be beneficial to health. 35 percent consider them harmful. In fact, most pills and powders are simply ineffective for people who have a normal diet, i.e. who are not deficient in certain nutrients. In the case of pre-existing illnesses, interactions with medication or too high a dosage of individual ingredients, some products can also be harmful. You can find an overview of the various ingredients here.

2. Effectiveness and safety not tested

47 percent of those surveyed believe that dietary supplements are state-tested for effectiveness and safety. The 44 percent who do not believe in it are correct: In Germany, food supplements are legally defined as nutrients in concentrated form, for example in capsules or tablets, which are only intended to supplement the general diet. There is no approval as is the case with medicinal products. The products are also not checked for their effectiveness and safety or the correctness of the advertising messages. The manufacturer is solely responsible for this. In an article we have compiled the exact regulations that apply to dietary supplements.

So that dietary supplements are generally safe and promote health is a fairy tale. But consumers in particular, who buy such products, trust them. According to the survey, 83 percent of buyers of dietary supplements believe in a positive effect and 55 percent believe that the products have been state-tested.

Our website Klartext Nutritional Supplements starts at this point and brings more clarity to the confusing market. Here you will find information about the risks and possible benefits of dietary supplements and get answers to questions or complaints.

If you are wondering whether you should buy and take a dietary supplement, this checklist will also help:

  • First, talk to your doctor. He can check whether you are actually undersupplied with nutrients. He knows your previous illnesses, knows which medication you are taking and can consider possible interactions of dietary supplements with these medications.

  • Find out more from independent agencies. You can find a search function for ingredients on our website. Important information is also available from the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment and the Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety.

  • Think about alternatives. If there is a lack of nutrients, it is often enough to change your own habits. Instead of capsules, changing your diet can help. Our tips under each nutrient will help you.

  • Pay attention to the recommended maximum daily dose. Manufacturers of dietary supplements must state the recommended portion per day and point out that it must not be exceeded. Too high an amount of vitamin D - for example through several food supplements at the same time - can lead to headaches, nausea and loss of appetite, in the worst case even to kidney calcification and kidney stones.

  • Beware of overdosed ingredients. A current market check by the consumer advice centers on dietary supplements containing magnesium shows: 64 percent of the products examined are overdosed. Depending on the magnesium concentration, this can lead to side effects such as diarrhea and vomiting. Many of the products also contain vitamins and minerals in excessive doses or in unfavorable combinations. For 40 percent of the products sold on the Internet, the providers also advertise with unapproved health claims.

  • Question advertising promises and praise for certain products in internet forums. You should also refrain from buying products if it is alleged on alleged information pages, which are mostly driven by the interests of suppliers or financed by advertising, that our food and the soil no longer contain sufficient nutrients. Or: With a varied diet, it is not possible to ensure an adequate supply of nutrients. This information is wrong and therefore forbidden! We have summarized which advertising messages are allowed.

  • Be careful with orders from abroad. What is considered a dietary supplement there may be classified as a medicinal product in Germany due to prohibited ingredients or an excessive dosage of individual ingredients. Since it is forbidden to import drugs from non-EU countries, customs will not release the products - and you will not receive the goods you have ordered and paid for. Slimming pills, supposedly purely natural sexual enhancers and many nutritional supplements for athletes are particularly affected. In the worst case, there is even a risk of criminal charges for importing illegal drugs. That being said, many of these products are dangerous to health.
The consumer advice centers require clear text for food supplements

Consumers must be able to rely on the fact that only products that are safe for their health are on the market. Politicians and legislators must ensure that ...
  • EU regulations such as positive lists for added substances and maximum quantities are created,

  • the providers scientifically prove the promised effects,

  • a state licensing requirement with official safety testing for dietary supplements becomes mandatory,

  • a public list on the Internet informs about which products have been tested by the authorities,

  • Consumers can easily contact a reporting office with complaints and unexpected effects.

As long as there are no Europe-wide regulations, national regulations are necessary.


This information was created as part of a nutrition project funded by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture.


more on the subject

Market check "Magnesium-containing food supplements"