Dietary supplements based on health quizzes can have unwanted consequences
More and more companies are being started where vitamins are sold in attractive packaging, separately or in bags with daily dosages. Influencers and young followers who prioritize their health and well-being are quick to jump on the new trends of nicely packaged supplements online – that cost way too much. These nutritional supplements are usually “tailored” with the help of a health quiz where the customer answers questions about their well-being.
Risks in combination with other medicines
But it can be highly problematic if dosages and recommendations of dietary supplements are not preceded by blood sampling under the guidance of qualified physicians. Dietary supplements are not prescription drugs and therefore doctors are rarely involved in their prescription – although perhaps they should be to a greater extent. Dietary supplements can interact with any drugs that you take – and it is therefore important that you inform your doctor if, for example, you are taking any supplements. Amongst other things, absorption, metabolism, and breakdown of drugs could be affected by substances that can be found in food supplements. The risk of negative health effects when using food supplements and drugs simultaneously is greater when compared to eating ordinary foods together with medications (1) (2).
Different deficiencies can create similar symptoms
By only looking at a health quiz without having specific knowledge of the client, incorrect dosages and recommendations can be given to the individual, as several different vitamin and mineral deficiencies show similar symptoms. The individual may suffer from serious deficiencies of a completely different vitamin than was initially assessed, or suffer from a serious underlying disease.
Association between supplementation and increased metastases
At Karolinska Institutet, a connection has been seen between supplements with antioxidant effects (such as Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Vitamin E) and increased metastases in cancer patients (3). Therefore, cancer patients or people declared healthy from cancer, are not recommended to consume these dietary supplements. It becomes difficult to control this with only a quiz that does not consider the anamnesis and complex medical history, in the same way, that a doctor usually does during a medical examination.
Spending money unnecessarily
In addition, many customers can spend hundreds of euros on unnecessary nutritional supplements before they have had a thorough health examination. This may include a solid health questionnaire about lifestyle and medical history, in addition to involving blood sampling and review of the lab results by a doctor, in accordance with established medical practice. Through individual blood sampling, a doctor can rule the need for taking the wrong supplements and instead advise on what supplements you may need – or not need at all – in order to improve your well-being and lab results.
Doctors mainly provide dietary advice or even genetic mapping
A doctor mainly gives advice on how the individual can get the right vitamins and minerals through proper nutrition. The focus on the patient’s well-being must always be based on a varied and nutritionally rich diet adapted to the needs in combination with a healthy lifestyle. Although, nutritional supplements can be recommended when the diet is not sufficient to end up at optimal levels of vitamins/minerals. Some clinics also offer genetic testing to further understand the individual’s needs and genetic risk factors. Through a combination of genetic mapping and medical examination including blood sampling, the risks of incorrect dietary supplements, can be minimized.
“A large part of our well-being is about balancing diet, exercise, sleep and taking nutritional supplements when needed. An individual can easily be mistaken for suffering from a B12 or vitamin D deficiency. However, by way of a proper medical examination, possible vitamin and mineral deficiencies can be ruled out, while focusing on lifestyle changes, sleep hygiene and physical activity to improve wellbeing. We create dynamic health plans based on individual examination and regular follow-ups, where you get noticeable results without spending hundreds of euros unnecessarily while your symptoms and health deteriorate.”
- National Institute of Health. (2020). Dietary Supplements: What You Need to Know https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/WYNTK-Consumer/ [Accessed 8 July, 2022]
- Livsmedelsverket. (2021). https://www.livsmedelsverket.se/livsmedel-och-innehall/kosttillskott/risker-med-kosttillskott [Accessed 8 July, 2022]
- Karolinska Institutet. (2021). Cancer, rapid ageing and nutrition – Martin Bergö, https://ki.se/en/bionut/cancer-rapid-ageing-and-nutrition-martin-bergo [Accessed 8 July, 2022]