Vegetable substances: food supplement or medicine?

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Vegetable substances as a dietary supplement or medicine?
Getting healthy, staying healthy - in order to fulfill this understandable wish of consumers, the market for health products today offers an almost unmistakable number of products. Food supplements (NEM) and foods with additional health benefits (so-called functional foods) compete with self-treatment drugs. Every week around 70 new dietary supplements come onto the market in Germany - who should keep an eye on them? A group of experts has now made public proposals for the declaration and transparency of such products.

An important reason for the uncertainty of consumers lies in the different legal regulations: While herbal medicinal products are subject to the strict criteria of the pharmaceutical law and are continuously monitored by the Federal Authority BfArM, food supplements are responsible for food supplements, the implementation of which is the responsibility of the federal states and municipalities . The special problem here: In addition to reputable suppliers who strictly observe compliance with food law and advertising regulations, there are also manufacturers who raise false expectations when it comes to selling their products.

An interdisciplinary panel of experts headed by Prof. Dr. Andreas Hahn, University of Hanover, has now determined an overview of the situation of herbal products and has created guidelines for the use and declaration of herbal preparations (Botanicals in food supplements, Karger Verlag 2011). The six-person working group first used three examples - garlic, cranberry and artichoke - to analyze the current market situation for products containing plants. The evaluation revealed a number of shortcomings: For example, it was shown that the health-related information is incomplete and that it is hardly possible to draw conclusions about effective ingredients. The experts therefore call for a proper declaration of the plant-based NEMs, clear information about the plant substance used (“starting drug”), the type of preparation, the properties of the extract, the recommended daily amount, the purpose and the effects, and instructions for contain the target consumer group. (KFN 18/2010 - 29.11.2010)

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