In the international commercial landscape, the nutritional supplement market turns out to be one of the most promising and fast-growing sectors. In 2021, the sector reached a remarkable milestone, generating turnover of EUR 150 billion, a doubling in value in just over a decade. This is an impressive figure that underlines the enormous potential for companies working in this niche.

Since 2015, the sector has seen constant growth, with an increase of 4.5 per cent in 2019 worldwide, thus recording a continuous positive trend in recent years. The position of Italy in the supplements market is particularly noteworthy: from tailender to European leader, with a share that now accounts for over 26% of the total value of the European market, in excess of 13 billion Euro. Consumption of supplements, in fact, has reached significant levels: in Italy alone, as many as 30 million people use them, especially between the ages of 35 and 54. This figure is not only an indicator of the increasing focus on personal health and wellbeing, but also a clear signal to company managers who are constantly on the lookout for innovative and promising products in the pharmaceutical sector.

Precisely for these reasons, nutritional supplements are triggering intensive discussion on the subject of maintaining and improving health. Are they useful? Are they harmful? Do they make you ill? These are the most common fears of consumers and are driving the public debate on the issue. While some argue that supplements are essential to fill nutritional gaps, others express concerns about the potential risks. In this article, we will explore the pro and cons of nutritional supplements, evaluating their strengths and weaknesses, to understand when and how they can be effective.

Pros and cons of nutritional supplements: an overview

Supplements play a significant role in primary prevention, especially in a context such as that of developed countries, with their increasingly ageing population. Their widespread use can have a positive impact on the sustainability of national healthcare systems, helping to prevent various age-related conditions, but not only age-related ones.

From this perspective, it is crucial to carefully examine the advantages and disadvantages of nutritional supplements in order to better understand their actual value in the context of public and individual health and their importance in the market.

Benefits of supplements: beyond nutrition

Nutritional supplements can offer numerous benefits, including the amelioration of  nutritional deficiencies and support for specific health needs. They are useful for those on restrictive diets or with medical conditions that affect the absorption of nutrients. In addition, some supplements may play a role in supporting cognitive function, skin wellness and general health.

The risks: when supplements can do harm

Despite their benefits, nutritional supplements are not without their drawbacks. Excessive or inappropriate use could lead to side effects or interactions with medicines. Precisely for this reason, it is often necessary to find nutritional supplements that can be taken in combination with medicines, in order to achieve a joint therapeutic goal. This presupposes the study of the synergistic or antagonistic effects that can arise with both single and combined use. Our supplement Cogiton, specifically formulated for the central nervous system, has been the subject of clinical studies confirming its efficacy in conjunction with medicines intended for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, such as Donepezil. Thanks to its composition and the presence of vitamins B2, E, C and selenium (Se), which help protect cells from oxidative stress and alleviate stress-related symptoms, it offers supplementary support in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.

Finally, the quality and purity of integrative products can vary, making it crucial to produce them according to GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) regulations and to perform clinical tests, to ensure the quality of the supplement through hard data.

Assessing the scientific evidence in support of efficacy

So we analyse why the evidence-based efficacy of nutritional supplements is the best way to identify safe and beneficial products for consumers.

Analysis and clinical validation of formulations

To assess whether supplements are truly effective, it is essential to consider the clinical study of the formulations. In fact, the efficacy of a complete formulation cannot be deduced solely from the literature on individual ingredients, as synergistic or antagonistic properties of a mixture can significantly alter the overall action, indicating that the effects are not merely additive. The scientific research, accordingly, provides the basis for understanding the efficacy and safety of supplements. By examining clinical studies and trials, we can determine which supplements have evidence that supports their claimed benefits.

Importance of certification and product quality

A crucial factor in the evaluation of supplements is product quality. The supplements produced in accordance with GMP ensure high standards in production, while having been certified by recognised international bodies ensures that they meet specific safety and efficacy criteria. Opting for a quality product, in essence, is essential to maximise the benefits for the end consumer.

Conclusions

Ultimately, the decision to use supplements should always be made with appropriate medical advice and a conscious assessment of the health needs of the individual.

Nutritional supplements can still be a valuable tool for improving health and well-being, but it is important to use them in an informed and responsible manner. The choice of evidence-based supplements with a solid research base and compliance with quality regulations is accordingly essential to be able to offer products in line with market standards and consumer expectations.