Research conducted by the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) confirms that a third of the population in Germany take supplements at least once a week to boost their vitamin levels.

The BfR Consumer Monitor survey – which canvassed 1,023 German citizens between 23 and 28 November 2021 – was commissioned to ‘find out how important the population thinks food supplements are in order to cover their vitamin needs’, and it aimed to establish not just how often supplements are consumed, but how the population rates their benefits and risks too.

The survey found that one in six people take supplements daily and 93% believe supplements are ‘essential for human life’.

Vitamin D ranked highest (45%), followed by B12 (36%), vitamin C (32%) and multivits (28%). A total of 68% rated the health benefits of concentrated food supplements as ‘very high’ or ‘medium’, while 46% rated the health risks as ‘very low’.

Although welcome data for the supplements industry, these are findings which BfR president Dr Andreas Hensel warns could have long-term health implications.

“The market for vitamins in the form of food supplements is growing continuously. The diverse range of tablets, capsules and liquids give the impression that a sufficient vitamin intake is not possible from diet alone. However, in most cases taking vitamins via food supplements is not useful. On the contrary: taking high-dose food supplements in addition to a balanced diet increases the risk of an oversupply of the respective vitamins.”

Hensel argues that ‘by having a balanced and varied diet, a healthy person can get almost all vitamins in sufficient quantities’. But the data reveals that despite 43% rating ‘overdosage’ as the highest risk concentrated food supplements pose, only half of respondents actually pay attention to adequate vitamin intakes – whether from dietary or supplementary sources. 49% claimed there was a ‘very high’ chance of falling into oversupply when taking daily VMS.