Choosing a Dietary Food Supplement - Natural Products - Strategic Advice
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Choosing a Dietary Food Supplement

Choosing a Dietary Food Supplement

Any consumer visiting the supplement section of a physical or online health shop is likely to be confronted by a vast range of options. The question is: where do they start?

Firstly, let’s be clear on the distinction between a drug and a supplement.


As you no doubt know, drugs are defined as “substances intended to diagnose, treat, mitigate, modify or prevent disease” ( and they are required to go through clinical trials. Some drugs can be bought over the counter and some need to be prescribed by a doctor. However, consumers are now aware that many drugs have unwanted side effects, so they are turning to other options first. Enter…


A dietary food supplement is exactly what it says: it is intended to supplement the nutrients we get from the conventional food that makes up our normal diet. According to, it is “a substance of natural origin, designed to assist the innate healing powers of the body in illness management”.

Although there has historically been very little control of complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs), which includes dietary food supplements, it’s hard to miss the huge controversy in South Africa right now around the tightening up of these regulations, – feel free to add your take on this in the comments below. While this ongoing conversation between complementary practitioners and government goes on, the man in the street still wants to be able to buy supplements.

Why do they want them?

People take supplements for various reasons:

  • They may have been instructed to do so by a medical professional;
  • They may believe they are not getting enough nutrients from their regular diet, either because they are not eating well or because the food they’re eating is not good quality; or
  • They may be suffering from a physical, emotional or mental condition that requires extra nutrients for healing to take place, or simply to maintain normal bodily functions.
  • Their personal reasons for taking them will determine the levels they need to take. For example, some who simply want a general nutrient boost may not need the high dosage a person with a debilitating condition might take.

Google dominates

Some consumers will ask a shop assistant in a health store for advice, and while many sales assistants do know what they’re talking about, some don’t, although that might not stop them from giving advice anyway.

The slightly more aware consumer knows this, so before they set foot in a store, there’s a good chance they’ve researched online to find out exactly what supplements are recommended, based on their reasons for taking them, as well as the specific benefits and dangers of those supplements. If they’re taking any other medication too, hopefully they will also consult with their doctor, in case the two don’t mix well.

We all know that dietary food supplements can be hugely effective when used correctly. The trick is to help customers make sure they are taking the right ones for them. Make sure your staff is well-informed, and do what you can to share useful information with your customers in whatever way you can most easily reach them.

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