Food supplements: our new medicines?

Long used to fill a deficient diet, dietary supplements are now also used to treat us. Good news to avoid bulimia medication. But this therapeutic use makes their instructions more and more complex. Expert advice.

Marie-Laurence Grézaud

Food supplements and lifestyle

Let's say it all: Food supplements are not drugs. In any case, not officially. As their name indicates, our legislation ranks them on the food side. Nevertheless: the French are more and more to use them to heal and, above all, to avoid getting sick. Nearly one in five adults consume regularly. Especially women, 71%. And one in ten children. Their peak use: the winter months, to strengthen the immune system and avoid cold, flu or bronchitis (source: Inca 2 study - 2006-2207, Afssa, 2009). Studies show that addicts tend to have a healthy lifestyle and pay close attention to what they eat (Source: NutriNet-Santé study, conducted since 2009 on a cohort of volunteer Internet users). They also often want to put the soft pedal on drugs (the real), because they are wary of chemical molecules (see box opposite), which we begin to better know the deleterious effects.

More and more prescribing doctors

For general practitioners too, capsules, tablets and herbal teas have become real therapeutic tools. Moreover, they are the ones who prescribe 50% of supplements. They use them to compensate for deficits now recognized - lack of vitamin B9 in pregnant women, iron and vitamin B12 in vegans or vitamin D in winter. But also to relieve benign pathologies - fatigue related to deficiencies in magnesium or iodine, functional disturbances such as cholesterol, depression, anxiety, insomnia, disorders of digestion, osteo-articular pain, allergies, repetitive infections, etc. Or more "serious" - hypertension, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes. To his diabetic patients, Dr. Philippe Veroli (author, with Brigitte Karleskind and Bruno Mercier, of the Practical Guide to Food Supplements, Thierry Souccar Editions, 2014, who also studied Chinese medicine and nutrition), prescribed carnosine and gymnema sylvestre, a plant that decreases the craving for sugar ...

Taken as a preventive measure, some supplements can prevent states of oxidative and inflammatory stress in the body, "lands on which settle the major diseases, "notes Dr. Didier Chos, micronutritionist and author, with Laëtitia Agullo, Healthy thanks to micronutrition (Albin Michel, 2014)."A simple deficiency can also weaken the body and make the bed of the disease, explains Christophe de Jaeger, geriatrician and gerontologist, author of We are no longer made to age (Grasset, 2012). correcting, we can limit its importance. " But there's no need for simplistic shortcuts: food supplements do not prevent it from happening! "Vitamin C, for example, has a real impact on immunity, but it's not because we have regularly, we will never have cancer, says the specialist, but the organization will be stronger to face him. "

How to choose them?

Neither panacea nor placebos, supplements seem to have their place to prevent and treat. But how to choose them and use them well? That's the difficulty. Since Europe banned health claims on labels in 2012, it is impossible to say that clay improves digestive comfort or that propolis protects against colds. A good point to avoid false promises, but it makes their use even more complex.

For many doctors, the regulations put in a single bag products that are not comparable: "This is a regulatory tote.No distinction is made between nutrients (vitamins, minerals, amino acids , fiber ...), healthy foods (royal jelly, goji berries ...) and plants, which have nothing to do with food, "notes Dr. de Jaeger. As supplements are over-the-counter, everyone makes his market according to his desires, the season and his intuition. Dr. Jean-Christophe Charrié, trained in herbal medicine and author with Marie-Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre, Treat yourself all year naturally (Prat Éditions, 2012), opposes this self-medication Wild, where sorcerer's apprentices are played by taking capsules all year round and combining them with his treatment without care: "One of my patients, whom I was treating with plants for her thyroid, bought on the advice of a friend, a cocktail of eighteen vitamins and herbs to find energy.Result: we took six months to rebalance.Unlike what is believed, these products are not They should be given on a case-by-case basis with the same caution as drugs. "

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