Although it might in theory be possible to derive adequate nutrition from the diet, a mass of research on the nutrient status of adults in western countries tell us that most people's dietary intake falls considerably short of providing the optimal intake of nutrients.

The UK's Food Commission provides a much more realistic picture. Following is an abstract from a paper entitled "Food policies: a threat to health" by T. Lobstein of the Food Commission UK (94 White Lion Street, London N1 9PF, UK. E-mail: [email protected]).

"Food policies deliver large quantities of food relatively safely, but they are failing to deliver healthy diets. Policies fall into three broad categories: the supply of sufficient amounts of food (food security); the provision of food free from contamination (food safety); the provision of a healthy diet available to all (nutritional quality). These three aspects are dealt with by institutions that rarely engage with each other, let alone coordinate their strategies. Greater financial support has been given to agricultural policy than to any other joint EU endeavour. In the last decade food safety has dominated headlines and has influenced recent changes to EU food policies. New food authorities and agencies have been established and ministerial responsibilities have been redefined. Yet, it is nutrition, or rather 'mis-nutrition', that is the largest single cause of death and disease within the region, and indeed worldwide. This need not be the case. Nutrition and dietary policies may find themselves in close alliance with policies for sustainable agriculture. However, the change in thinking that will be required will mean reconsidering the role of commercial food production. Successful nutrition policies may yet prove to be the next major step in the improvement of public health."

In addition, in the USA, where dietary supplements are used to a greater extent than the UK or other parts of Europe,poisonings data show that nutritional supplements are many times safer than foods (compare data in American Journal of Emergency Medicine 20 (5) 2002 and Emerging Infectious Diseases 5,(5) 1999: 607–625).

The most comprehensive adverse event data comparing dietary supplements with other risk factors has been compiled by Ron Law in New Zealand.This fully referenced data set shows that the risk of death from dietary supplements lies somewhere between the risk of being killed by a wasp sting and being struck by a meteorite.