Food supplements do not replace a healthy diet

One in four on the island of Ireland currently taking food supplements

13 March, 2008 safefood in collaboration with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland and the Food Standards Agency Northern Ireland has launched a new guide to food supplements, with research revealing that one in four adults on the island of Ireland are currently taking food supplements(1). Entitled “Thinking of Taking Food Supplements?” the leaflet is an informative guide to what food supplements are and what they do.

Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, Director, Human Health & Nutrition, safefood said, “Nutritional supplements should not be used as a replacement for a healthy balanced diet, which can provide the vitamins, minerals and other natural ingredients beneficial to our health. However, the exception to this would be folic acid, which all women of childbearing age and who are sexually active should take daily* to lower the risk of birth defects of the brain and spinal cord in the baby. With many people believing that supplements can improve their overall health, we have developed this leaflet to help inform consumers about food supplements.”

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. It is this combination of nutrients working together in food that can help keep bodies healthy.

“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. There are also potential health consequences of taking too much of certain food supplements or taking them with medication”, continued Dr. Foley-Nolan. “With the exception of folic acid, people should consult with their doctor or dietitian first before considering food supplements for themselves or their families.

“In certain circumstances, GPs will advise consumers to take food supplements and we hope this leaflet will help inform consumers before they seek that advice”, she added.

Copies of “Thinking of Taking Food Supplements?” will be available from GP surgeries over the coming weeks, online at or by calling the safefood helpline on 1850 40 45 67.


*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.

For further information please contact

Niamh Burdett / Kate FitzGerald  or   Fiona Gilligan
WHPR        safefood
Tel: 01 6690030       Tel: 01 4480600
086 6086 764 (Niamh) / 086 3873 083 (Kate)


(1) North/South Ireland Food Consumption Survey, 2001