A pharmacist has urged consumers to be on the lookout for unscrupulous marketing tactics and fake testimonies about supplements in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw a jump in intake of dietary supplements in tandem with concerns over public health.
Munaver Ahmad Nazir Ahmad, a senior clinical community pharmacist in Sungai Buloh, warned consumers against making promotions and discounts the main deciding factor when purchasing supplements.
“These are mere marketing tools that retailers use to prompt users to buy,” he said.
His comments follow a survey by Japanese firm Rakuten Insight which found that Malaysians aged 16 to 44 increased their intake of dietary supplements in July last year, following the outbreak of Covid-19 in the country.
The prospect of maintaining good health and boosting immunity against viruses and other ailments is enough to lure many into forking out large amounts of money, particularly if it involves promotions and discounts promising them a good deal.
But Munaver said a number of factors should be taken into account before would-be buyers shell out the big bucks.
Malaysians aged 16 to 44 increased their intake of dietary supplements in July last year, following the outbreak of Covid-19 in the country.
For starters, he said, consumers should always check the registration number and authenticity of the product under consideration.
Registration of supplements in Malaysia is governed by the National Pharmaceutical Registration Agency or NPRA. Products given the green light by the NPRA are issued a registration code beginning with “MAL”, followed by eight digits and ending with the letter “N”.
“There are many products that are only registered as food supplements and do not have product code registration numbers,” Munaver told MalaysiaNow.
Buyers can also check the authenticity of a product by entering its particulars in the Quest3+ application on the NPRA’s website.
A quick way to determine whether a supplement has passed inspection is to look for the hologram sticker issued by the health ministry. But Munaver warned that some retailers abuse this and other important logos including the halal symbol, the Good Manufacturing Practice logo and the ministry’s MeSTI logo.
He said a better way is to check if the product complies with the requirements of the Medicines Advertisement Board, which in accordance with the Medicines (Advertisement & Sales) Act 1956 bars products for some 20 diseases from advertisement by retailers and manufacturers.
At the end of the day, he said, it is always best to consult professionals to avoid making uninformed decisions due to impulse buying or doubts over physical well-being.
Most people may not even need supplements as daily vitamin and mineral requirements can be found in a healthy and balanced diet.
He said community pharmacists are trained to identify signs and symptoms of nutrient deficiency and will be able to provide advice on how best to overcome the problem.
“Community pharmacists are able to use their technical judgment and expertise to provide well-informed decisions on whether the supplements are needed or not to best suit consumers’ current health conditions.”
In any case, he said, most people may not even need supplements as daily vitamin and mineral requirements can be found in a healthy and balanced diet.
“Nutrient deficiencies can be corrected by supplements, but the gold standard is to have a healthy balanced diet,” he said.
He also warned of side effects from some supplements which, if taken beyond the recommended dosage, could lead to toxicity.
Supplements may also cause reactions due to diets or disease, he said.
Given the hectic pace of lifestyle for many these days, maintaining a balanced diet may be easier said than done.
And if supplements are ultimately necessary, Munaver’s advice is the same: take them based on the word of health experts, not marketing campaigns