Changing the Way of Supplements

The use of supplements to support our health has been happening since the start of the 20th century, and yet, the demand for nutraceuticals is as high as ever. In response to the unexpected Covid-19 pandemic, people began to prioritise their health and well-being, taking a preventative approach in the absence of a cure. We searched the internet for nootropics, fitness powders, and superfoods in an attempt to combat isolation, keep in shape and maintain nutritional levels when the shelves in the shops were empty of staple goods.

Healthy intentions

Supplements contain nutrients that aim to support a person’s diet. They come in the form of pills, capsules, powders, serums, snacks, or drinks. They tend to fall into one of four categories – vitamins and minerals (like vitamins A, B, and C, or iron, zinc, and magnesium), speciality supplements (glucosamine and probiotics), herbals and botanicals (such as ginseng and lavender), or sports nutrition and weight management (protein, caffeine, and creatine). People usually use supplements to achieve a particular goal, such as obtaining better sleep, supporting immunity, losing weight, or gaining muscle mass.

Early 20th century

The use of herbals and botanicals can be traced back as far as 60,000 years ago. Archaeologists have found the remains of plants, such as opium poppies and cannabis, that were used medicinally. Vitamins and minerals were first used as supplements at the beginning of the twentieth century when scientists began to realise that poor nutrition was connected to immunity and disease.

World War II

World War II brought about rationing and poor nutrition, causing the general population, as well as those serving in the armed forces to suffer from deficiencies. In 1942, the Ministries of Health and Food introduced a food supplementation policy that included the provision of cod liver oil for children, pregnant women, and the elderly.

Late 20th century

The increased use of modern agricultural practices saw a surge in the sale of prepackaged, refined food between the 70s and 90s. The resulting decline in nutritional intake prompted more people to try supplements to fill the gap.

Present day

As well as vitamins, minerals, herbals, and botanicals, people are now buying sports nutrition and weight management supplements, beauty supplements, nootropics, and dietary alternatives.

Sports nutrition and weight management 

Visit any health food shop, and you will see an entire section dedicated to workout and weight-loss supplements, such as protein shakes, energy drinks, creatine powders, and amino-acid capsules. Some are aimed at increasing endurance and strength, others, such as clear whey isolate, at building and maintaining muscle, and the remainder at decreasing appetite while increasing metabolism.


Sales of beauty supplements reached $3.3 billion in 2020 and are predicted to reach $6.8 billion in 2024. This corner of the market emerged from the sexual wellness industry and originally targeted women but is now shifting towards a gender-neutral audience. Products range from probiotic pills for glowing skin to serums for healthier hair, and they come in trendy packaging with sleek designs. These supplements don’t aim to fix you, their intention is to inspire you to better yourself, and their labelling focuses on how they benefit you rather than what they contain.


Nootropic supplements aim to provide a sedative or stimulating effect to improve cognition and physical abilities. For example, melatonin is used for sleep, tianeptine to brighten mood, and L-Theanine to reduce stress and anxiety. There is a range of nootropics on the market, but the majority are designed to make people happier or more productive.

Dietary alternatives

Some people choose to restrict their diet for religious reasons or ideological beliefs, and others are allergic or sensitive to certain foods. Whatever the reason, there is a growing demand for dietary alternatives to enable people to continue to enjoy a varied diet in keeping with their needs. For vegetarians and vegans, there are plant-based foods and protein supplements; for diabetics, there are low-sugar treats like sweets and cookies; and for those with an intolerance to lactose, there are lactose-free food and drink or lactase capsules.

Supplements of the future

With a growing compound annual growth rate (CAGR) rate of 8.5%, the dietary supplements market is forecast to reach $240 billion by 2028. As well as consumer interest, the health and well-being market is being driven by backing from manufacturing, pharmaceutical, and science and technology businesses. Some of the key players in the global dietary supplements market include Pfizer, Amway, and Nestle. Supplements of the future are likely to be guided by research and technology that will personalise the way of supplements.

Artificial intelligence

Increased investment in artificial intelligence (AI) will not only enable systems to identify new plant compounds and determine how they might help improve our health, but they will also be able to spot potential interactions between ingredients. This might enable brands to provide a more personalised approach to well-being. For example, capsules made from hydroxypropyl cellulose-based filaments can already be 3D-printed and programmed to release different supplements at predetermined times.


One day, we may be able to use microscopic nanobots to deliver minute doses to precise areas of the body, maximising benefits while preventing side effects. This technology could also be used to solve dietary problems, for example, through the reduction of plaque in veins.

Final thoughts

Supplementation has evolved over the last decade, and we have seen a shift from the use of compounds to fill the gaps in our diet towards the use of products to better our bodies and minds. As long as consumer interest in supplements continues, the health and well-being market will carry on thriving. For the time being, supplements are intended to be consumed alongside a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise and good sleep. They should not be relied upon alone to transform a person’s body, health, or wellness. However, the inclusion of AI and nanotechnology has the potential to personalise the way of supplementation in the future.

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