Are you taking your vitamins? Well, should you?

Could supplements cause more damage than good?

We all know that vitamins and minerals are important for our health. In fact, 46% of all Britons take at least one vitamin supplement daily. But the NHS says that we should be able to obtain all the vitamins we need from our diet, and some of these supplement pills may be causing more damage than good. So why are we taking them? Is taking vitamins as tablets better than eating them?

Many vitamin and mineral supplements and pills may be causing more harm than good. Firstly for financial reasons; taking just a few vitamins a day could add up, and you could end up spending hundreds of pounds every year on something you can probably get without supplements. In addition, taking vitamins could lead to a false sense of reassurance that you don’t need to have a balanced diet. Actually, when you eat food that contains a range of vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients, the nutritional value of all of these is optimised. On a darker note, the vitamin tablets available might not even be safe. The contents of these are often not regulated and could potentially be harmful or toxic.

There are some situations, however, where it is important to take vitamins, for example if you have a chronic health condition. Pregnant women should also take folic acid supplements during the early stages of their pregnancy, as it is vital for healthy foetal growth and it is hard to obtain the right amount from food. Folic acid supplements are also often easier to absorb than folate from foods such as spinach. Vitamin B12 is another exception. It is a very important vitamin in the production of red blood cells and DNA, as well as the function of your nervous system. It is recommended that people over the age of 50 should take a vitamin B12 supplement, as stomach acid production starts to decline as you age, and although B12 can be obtained from a healthy diet, it is usually easier to digest when taken as a supplement.

So, whether or not you should take vitamins is pretty subjective. On the whole, you should aim to eat a balanced diet, and it should be easy to get all the vitamins you need from that. If you are vegan or don’t eat a certain food group, or you have a vitamin deficiency, you may need to supplement your vitamin intake, but in general, natural is the best way to go.

Ruby V