Giulio Fezzardini

Editorial staff 

TKS Publisher


A dietary supplement
against the strain of modern life?

Many years ago, when I was a kid, at one point I had started eating oranges because I wanted to increase my Vitamin C intake. After learning of my commendable intent, someone told me that I would actually need to eat 1 kg of oranges to get 1 gramme of Vitamin C (I have never really checked if this is true) - I therefore opted for the more practical supplements. It was the ‘70s and, honestly, I do not remember whether they were labelled as "nutritional supplements" or not. Back in those days, television did not really give much space to healthy eating, nor did everyone actually have a television.

The maximum of a "health ingredient" you could get that I can recall was an artichoke-based aperitif drink that claimed to help "against the strain of modern life", advertised in Italy in a popular commercial, which you preferably had to enjoy – the commercial implied - while sitting at a bar table in a crowded Milano area during the rush hour. In those years, popular energising remedies were beaten egg with Marsala wine or, if recovering from some seasonal illness, vials containing vitamin mixtures which had a decidedly unpleasant taste.

Today, life is much less complicated and we have a large number of dietary supplements available – the only true problem is picking the right one for us amongst so many! My first encounter with dietary supplements happened years ago in a New Jersey supermarket. During my early youth trips to the US, I used to bring back bags full of records, Ray-Ban glasses and Timberland shoes. After a few years, I found myself filling the same bags with bottles of dietary supplements upon leaving America!

I still remember how amazed I was when I first found myself walking those long supermarket aisles crammed with supplement products coming in all package sizes and suiting all needs! Shortly after, dietary supplements would spread into Europe and the rest of the world and the first health ingredients fairs and shows started to pop up and grow in size through the years, which led to flooding the market with all sorts of supplements. I cannot really say how and when this unstoppable process was triggered, certainly effectively supported by huge advertising budgets. Given the broad availability of these products, could we say that taking dietary supplements today has turned into a bit of a “fashion”?

I believe this might be true to a certain extent. On one hand, clearly the sales of dietary supplements are skyrocketing, fuelled by the huge advertising pressure. On the other hand, however, it is also true that the environment and the society we live in today truly imposes the strain of modern life on us, as that old commercial from the ‘60s used to say. Life can wear you out, and I am referring to pre-covid times as well. Stress and concern have driven us to increasingly consume health products. In these terms, I think we can definitely say that the popularity of dietary supplements is not just a temporary fashion, but rather that these products are here to stay! In fact, people have gone from living life back in the day in a casual way, without worrying too much for the consequences of our bad habits, to evolving today towards being more aware of one’s health and the proper behaviour to preserve it.

Undoubtedly, food also brings serious issues to the mind. Food is also about its availability and we still have a long way to go in terms of ensuring everyone has access to basic food amounts regularly in many countries in the world. Nonetheless, I am certain that health ingredients have a bright future, also in those areas where access to food is not always given for granted. Indeed, it is about the process of evolution. Like a drug has the potential of providing universal benefits, so can a dietary supplement.

In addition, in terms of sustainable economy policies to support local populations, many raw materials used in dietary supplements are sourced in underdeveloped areas of the world, thus can help these countries to grow. There are many factors involved in a process like the development of a dietary supplement and, in the end, when true progress is triggered, we can all benefit of it - I reckon this may be an important perspective to face the implications and future opportunities of the dietary supplementation business.

In conclusion, let’s go back for a minute to that old black and white commercial depicting people enjoying the popular artichoke-based liqueur at a bar table in a busy Milano centre setting - a liqueur whose name I cannot mention for obvious reasons. A new version of the liqueur commercial came out in recent years and featured a group of friends (they were actually the members of a famous rock band) meeting up for a drink in the same busy Milano environment of the original commercial. In the new ad, the traffic suddenly becomes unbearable and the members of the band flee and take off with the liqueur bottle, which had suddenly turned into a spaceship. Well, perhaps thinking that a supplement can lift you up and make you fly as in the commercial is a bit far-fetched, yet I am certain it can help us fight back the "strain of modern life".