New guidelines on vitamins and mineral supplement consumption published

FSAI hopes information will help consumers understand the amounts that are excessive


New guidelines on how many vitamins and mineral supplements can be safely consumed have been published by the Republic’s food regulator alongside warnings about the dangers of over consumption.

The new report from the Food Safety Authority of Ireland’s (FSAI) Scientific Committee outlines the process that the burgeoning food supplement industry can use to establish maximum safe levels for 21 of the 30 vitamins and minerals permitted in food supplements in Ireland.

The guidelines set out the highest dietary intakes of micronutrients which are safe for people of different ages and gender and the FSAI expressed the hope that the information will help consumers understand the amounts of vitamins and minerals that are excessive.

The food supplement industry in Ireland has been growing dramatically over recent years and the number of different products on the market has risen from 700 in 2007 to over 2,500 in 2017 - an increase of over 300 per cent.

“We are concerned about the growing number of these products and, in particular, the safety of vulnerable groups of the population in Ireland including children, pregnant women and older people,” the chief executive of the FSAI Dr Pamela Byrne said.

She expressed the view that the report would allow the FSAI “to provide robust advice and guidance to the industry on the levels of nutrients for their products by age and gender groupings.”

She said the advice for the general public regarding taking food supplements remains “that it is not necessary to take food supplements to maintain a healthy lifestyle” and instead the FSAI recommends a “well-balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables and, plenty of exercise”.

She said the only food supplements the FSAI recommends for the general population are folic acid for women who are sexually active and vitamin D supplements for infants from birth to 12 months.

“People in Ireland are becoming more aware of the importance of a varied and balanced diet for good health which is positive; however, some are using food supplements in their diet and there can be a mistaken belief that ‘more is better’,” said the chairman of the FSAI Scientific Committee Prof Albert Flynn.

“There can be adverse health effects when people take too much of some vitamins or minerals,” he said.

“This is particularly true when it comes to children and adolescents who may be taking the same amounts of vitamins and minerals from food supplements as adults, despite having different needs and smaller body sizes. We know from recent surveys of dietary practices in Ireland that most people are getting more than enough vitamins and minerals from their diet alone,” he added.