From multivitamins and minerals to specialized herbs used to support good health, dietary supplements are something most people are familiar with. But what about medical foods? These formulas contain unique combinations of nutritional ingredients, so they seem similar to dietary supplements—but are they?
Medicals foods are specially formulated and intended for the dietary management of a disease or condition that has distinctive nutritional needs that cannot be met by normal diet alone. More than a “shake,” a medical food is formulated to deliver targeted nutrition for the nutritional management of a single, specific condition. These may include conditions like diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune inflammatory disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and others.
Unlike dietary supplements, the law stipulates that medical foods be used under the ongoing supervision of a healthcare practitioner. This is because patients who use medical foods have health conditions that require medical management to ensure that the right amount is administered and adjusted as needed. Additionally, ingredients found within a medical food must be GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) while ingredients for dietary supplements have a slightly different standard.
Medical foods are formulated for dietary management of an existing disease/condition. Dietary supplements are designed to supplement the diet with one or more dietary ingredients like vitamins and minerals, herbs, botanicals, amino acids, or enzymes. Plus, dietary supplements may be taken without medical supervision (although it’s a good idea to take any supplement upon the recommendation and guidance of a healthcare practitioner). On the other hand, medical foods are unique combinations of nutritional ingredients to support the management of a specific medical condition.
If you have a health condition that requires dietary management ask your doctor here at IPM if you could benefit from using a medical food. We have some great patient successes from using medical foods.