Exactly What Classes As A Dietary Supplement?


Dietary supplements are very popular. Many people use them to give their body a bit of extra help. People use them for good health, weight loss, anti aging and to help with illness, to name just a few uses. However, there are lots of different dietary supplements available and the advice can be confusing. Many people are unsure what actually classes as a dietary supplement and whether they need to take them or not. Their effectiveness is also widely debated.

The Definition Of A Dietary Supplement

“A concentrated source of a vitamin, mineral or other substance with a nutritional or physiological effect, alone, or in combination, sold in dose form.”

This definition is from the UK government and so is just the UK definition. Other countries have different wording for their definition of a dietary supplement, but the jist is generally the same.

Types Of Dietary Supplement

There are a number of dietary supplements available, all meant to help with different things.


A vitamin is an organic compound that can not be synthesised in the body in sufficient amounts. As the correct quantities are vital, more must be gained from the diet, however only in limited amounts. Supplementation of vitamins can be important to help treat certain health problems, but benefits are rarely seen in already healthy people.

Essential Fatty Acids

Essential Fatty Acids (EFA) are required by the body for good health, but the body is unable to synthesise them. This only refers to fats are are needed for biological processes and not those that are only used as a fuel.


Chemicals elements needed by the body are called minerals. However, this does not include oxygen, carbon, hydrogen or nitrogen.

Amino Acids And Proteins

Proteins are a chain of amino acids. Amino acids are biological compounds that include amine and carboxylic acid functional groups. They are biologically important and not all can be made in the body.


These supplements are designed to perform a variety of tasks. They can replace meals, help with weight loss, bodybuilding, promote weight gain or promote athletic performance. They are either individual ingredients or blends.

Food Law

Dietary supplements are regulated differently in different countries. In the UK dietary supplements are classed as a food and so come under a variety of food laws. They are not licensed as medicines.

Some regulations that dietary supplements must meet under food laws include:

  • Safe for consumption;
  • Labelling;
  • Minimum and maximum levels in supplements;

There is a list of permitted dietary supplements. This is constantly being updated.

Because dietary supplements are a food, not a medicine, they can not claim to treat ailments. Therefore they will say ‘may help with’, ‘may be beneficial’ and the similar.

If you are thinking about taking a dietary supplement, always check with your doctor first, especially if you are on any medication!