Does the ZMA dietary supplement really work?

Professional societies warn against uncritical handling of dietary supplements

Food supplements can be useful for people who suffer from a deficiency, for example for certain diseases, food intolerances or a one-sided diet. / inventart AdobeStock.com

Wiesbaden - Germans are spending more and more money on dietary supplements. “The trend is in clear contrast to current scientific knowledge. High-ranking published studies suggest: Dietary supplements are of no use for primary prevention, i.e. maintaining health and preventing diseases, "warn the German Society for Gastroenterology, Digestive and Metabolic Diseases (DGVS) and the German Society for General and Visceral Surgery (DGAV). Long-term use could even be risky. Dietary supplements and medication should therefore not be taken without consulting a doctor, according to the professional associations.

The professional associations base their recommendations on various studies: One of the most comprehensive studies on the benefits of dietary supplements appeared in 2017 in Advances in Nutrition. Here, researchers evaluated 49 different studies with 290,000 participants and found: The intake of vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin K, magnesium, selenium, or zinc supplements, as well as omega 3 fatty acid capsules, has no positive effects Influences the avoidance of diseases such as cancer or cardiovascular diseases and does not cause life extension.

Studies that have recently been published, such as an evaluation of the US cohort study NHANES from this year (Ann Intern Med. 2019). Here researchers only found positive effects for vitamins and minerals from food, but not when they were taken in the form of dietary supplements.

Food supplements only necessary for a few groups of people

"The advertising claim that everyone needs an extra portion of vitamins or minerals to maintain performance and health is simply wrong," said Jürgen Schölmerich, specialist in gastroenterology and former medical director and chairman of the Frankfurt University Hospital. Certain dietary supplements are only actually recommended for a few groups of people, such as pregnant women or vegans.

In addition, the manufacturers often exceed the maximum doses of the dietary supplements recommended by the specialist societies. Sabine Pricelius, Center for Health at AOK Northeast

"A healthy person who has a balanced diet does not need any dietary supplements," confirms Sabine Pricelius, specialist in internal medicine and naturopathic treatments at the AOK Nordost Health Center. Over-the-counter preparations in particular would often contain an abundance of different vitamins and nutrients, which could occasionally lead to undesirable interactions between the nutrients and vitamins. “In addition, the manufacturers often exceed the maximum doses of the dietary supplements recommended by the specialist societies,” says Pricelius.

Nevertheless, according to a survey commissioned by the German Food Association, 225 million packs of these preparations were sold in this country in 2018. Sales increased from 1.31 billion euros in 2017 to 1.44 billion euros in 2018. Consumers should discuss with their doctor whether and, if so, which preparations they need.

No recommendation for acetylsalicylic acid in primary prevention

Schölmerich also warned against taking acetylsalicylic acid tablets for primary prevention. "Because of its blood-thinning effect, aspirin is used successfully after heart attacks or strokes, for example, to prevent another event," says Schölmerich. For the use of acetylsalicylic acid in primary prevention, however, the data are sobering, according to the expert and refers to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine. © hil / gie / aerzteblatt.de