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|It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with Dietary supplement. (Discuss)|
A food supplement is, typically, a nutrient added to a foodstuff which would otherwise not contain that nutrient. In general, the term is restricted to those additives which are deemed to be positive for health, growth or well-being.
Several ranges of food supplements are recognised:
- additives which repair a deficit to "normal" levels
- additives which appear to enhance a food
- supplements taken in addition to the normal diet
Many physicians today disagree with the premise that foodstuffs need supplementation, but accept that - for example - added calcium may provide benefit, or that adding folic acid may correct a nutritional deficiency especially in pregnant women.
On a more controversial level, but well founded in scientific basis, is the science of using foods and food supplements to achieve a defined health goal. A common example of this use of food supplements is the extent to which body builders will use amino acid mixtures, vitamins and phytochemicals to enhance natural hormone production, increase muscle and reduce fat.
Moving on from this reasonably accepted usage, there is increasing evidence for the use of food supplements in established medical conditions. This nutritional supplementation using foods as medicine (nutraceuticals) has been effectively used in treating disorders affecting the immune system up to and including cancers. This goes beyond the definition of "food supplement", but should be included for the sake of completeness.
There are several main groups of food supplements which can be considered:
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