Differences between Dietary Supplements vs. Medical Foods

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Oct 2, 2020 | Health Information

In an increasingly complex health and wellness sector, it can be confusing to keep up with all the latest trends and insights. Regardless, many individuals are taking their health into their own hands as it is now much easier to access medical information. Knowledge is key when it comes to staying healthy, but sometimes misinformation can get in the way.

With that said, there are key differences between dietary supplements and medical foods. The terms are not synonymous and are manufactured for different purposes. It is important for consumers to understand the difference between a dietary supplement and a medical food so they can make the best choice possible when deciding what is appropriate for them.

Medical Foods

According to the Food & Drug Administration, medical foods are, “a food which is formulated to be consumed or administered enterally under the supervision of a physician and which is intended for the specific dietary management of a disease or condition for which distinctive nutritional requirements, based on recognized scientific principles, are established by medical evaluation.” Medical foods are designed to be able to be properly ingested, absorbed and digested for those that have difficulty with any of those processes. In addition, the FDA has a specific set of requirements for medical food manufacturers to abide by, including Current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP).

Many of our products at Solace Nutrition are medical foods – they are developed and targeted towards a specific disease or condition. Many come in powder form, while some are liquids and tablets. Although they are intended to be taken under medical supervision, medical foods do not require a prescription.1

Dietary Supplements

The FDA defines dietary supplements as, “products taken by mouth that contain a ‘dietary ingredient.’ Dietary ingredients include vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and herbs or botanicals, as well as other substances that can be used to supplement the diet.”2 Supplements can come in a variety of forms, including softgels, tablets, liquids and powders. They are designed to support already healthy individuals by giving them a nutritional boost.3

Solace Nutrition offers both dietary supplements and medical foods. Our NanoVM line consists of vitamin & mineral dietary supplements for infants, children, adolescents, adults and seniors. Not only does our line cater to particular age groups, but NanoVM t/f is specifically designed for children and adolescents who require a tube-feeding option.

Both medical foods and dietary supplements should have very clear labeling on the front of the product that states whether it is either one. The FDA regulates the facilities of both supplement and medical foods companies. Dietary supplements also do notrequire a prescription.4

Be Informed and Consult Your Physician

When it comes to making decisions about your health, you can never do enough research. Solace Nutrition strives to provide our customers with straightforward details on each of our product’s pages. For more information on any given product, you can refer to our FAQ section. Our customer service team is also available to answer any questions you may have about any of our products.


  1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 2017. Medical Foods Guidance Documents & Regulatory Information. [online] Available at: <https://www.fda.gov/food/guidance-documents-regulatory-information-topic-food-and-dietary-supplements/medical-foods-guidance-documents-regulatory-information> [Accessed 10 June 2020].
  2. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 2019. Dietary Supplements. [online] Available at: <https://www.fda.gov/food/dietary-supplements> [Accessed 10 June 2020].
  3. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 2015. FDA 101: Dietary Supplements. [online] Available at: <https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/fda-101-dietary-supplements#:~:text=The%20law%20defines%20dietary%20supplements,used%20to%20supplement%20the%20diet.> [Accessed 10 June 2020].
  4. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 2016. Frequently Asked Questions About Medical Foods. College Park, MD.