Food supplements do not replace a healthy diet - NI release

13 March, 2008. Following recent research that suggested taking some antioxidant supplements could increase the risk of early death(1), safefood is reiterating its advice to consumers that food supplements do not replace a healthy diet. Indeed there can be potential health consequences of taking too much of certain food supplements.

Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, Director, Human Health & Nutrition, safefood said, “Nutritional supplements should not be used as a replacement for a healthy balanced diet. By enjoying a variety of foods which provide energy, protein, fibre and other natural ingredients in addition to vitamins and minerals, a healthy balanced diet can have beneficial effects on health that supplements cannot match.”

Dr Foley-Nolan said that the one exception to the rule is folic acid, which all women of childbearing age and who are sexually active should take daily* to lower the risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida in the baby.
“Taking supplements can appear like a quick fix solution but it just doesn’t replace a healthy balanced diet. There is often uncertainty about whether we actually need to take supplements in the first instance or which ones to take,” continued Dr. Foley-Nolan. “With the exception of folic acid, people really don’t need to take food supplements unless advised to do so by their doctor or dietitian.

“With many people still believing that supplements can improve their overall health, safefood along with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland and the Food Standards Agency Northern Ireland recently launched a leaflet called “Thinking of Taking Food Supplements?”, to help inform consumers about food supplements. This leaflet will inform consumers and help them make the right decision about taking supplements”, she added.

Anyone who would like a copy of the “Thinking of Taking Food Supplements?” leaflet or advice on healthy eating should visit or call the safefood helpline on 0800 085 1683. The leaflets will also be available from local GP surgeries.


For further information please contact

Kathy Doyle   or  Dermot Moriarty
Smarts     safefood
Tel: 028 9039 5509   Tel: 00353 1448 0600

Notes to Editors


  • (1) Bjelakovic G, Nikolova D, Gluud LL, Simonetti RG, Gluud C. Antioxidant supplements for prevention of mortality in healthy participants and patients with various diseases. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2008, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD007176
  • *All women who could become pregnant should take a daily Folic Acid supplement of 400 µg (micrograms), and continue to take it for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
  • safefood launched the “Thinking of Taking Food Supplements?” leaflets in collaboration with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland and the Food Standards Agency Northern Ireland in March 2008.