Food supplements, a very lucrative business

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Food supplements, a very lucrative business

In 2018, the food supplement market weighed 1.9 billion euros. Much less supervised than drugs, these products appreciated by the French cannot have or claim therapeutic effects.

Food supplements, which leave science skeptical, nevertheless continue to seduce the French: the market represented 1.9 billion euros in 2018, a slight increase compared to the previous year, according to figures published on Wednesday by representatives of the sector. “Three indications concentrate a large part of the market: sleep/stress, digestion and vitality”, according to the National Union of Food Supplements (Synadiet).

Nearly half of sales are made in pharmacies (50%), ahead of direct sales and distance selling, particularly on the internet (19%), specialized circuits such as organic stores (15.5%), large and medium-sized surfaces (10%) and parapharmacies (6%).

These products are very popular with the French: nearly one in two people have already taken them, according to a survey commissioned by Synadiet and carried out online by OpinionWay among 1,000 people in early January. “For the latter, food supplements are a natural solution to maintain their health and avoid taking medication when it is not necessary,” says Synadiet. Among the people questioned, 40% appreciate the “natural” nature of the products and 38% consume them in order to avoid taking medication.

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No health benefits

However, scientists are skeptical about the value of these products, which are sometimes made from plants and which may contain vitamins or minerals. Unlike drugs, these products are not subject to marketing authorization.

“By definition, a food supplement cannot have or claim therapeutic effects”, indicates the National Agency for Health and Food Safety (Anses) on its website. In addition, several studies have concluded, for the vast majority of vitamin or mineral supplements, that there is no proven benefit.

In February, the Academy of Pharmacy devoted a report to herbal food supplements. She recalled that some had effects close to drugs without being as well supervised and warned against potentially risky misuse (consumption of several products, exceeding recommended doses). It also warned of the dangers of those containing aloe juice or rhubarb roots, used for their laxative effect.

Last year, ANSES pointed out that food supplements containing melatonin, supposed to make you sleep better, carried risks of side effects (dizziness, irritability, tremors, migraines, nausea, etc.).

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