ONE in three of us takes a daily vitamin supplement – but they might be a waste of money, new research warns.
Health-conscious Brits spent an estimated £442million on a vast array of supplements last year, including fish oils, multivitamins, enzymes and amino acids.
Getty – Contributor One in three Brits take daily vitamin supplements, but new research warns they might be a waste of money
These claim to enhance almost every aspect of your health, from reducing pain to boosting your immune system.
But an investigation by consumer mag Which? found some are just a waste of money. Today Mr Money looks at the findings.
Do I need a supplement?
PEOPLE who cut out specific foods, follow a restricted diet or have an extra need for certain nutrients might benefit from supplements.
Getty – Contributor Vitamin D is great for a healthy immune system, though it can reduce the effectiveness of high blood pressure medicine
But the Department of Health recommends only vitamin D during winter and folic acid for pregnant women.
Children aged six months to five years should take an A, C and D multivitamin.
Vitamin D supplements are advised because it’s hard to get enough from the two available natural sources, food and sunlight.
It keeps our immune systems healthy and also helps to absorb calcium and phosphate, which keep bones, teeth and muscles in good shape.
Those especially at risk of deficiency, such as the elderly, people who don’t spend much time outside and those with darker skin tones, should take a supplement all year.
VITAMIN DWE need vitamin D for a healthy immune system and to absorb calcium and phosphorous.Everyone should take 10mcg of vitamin D during autumn and winter.
At-risk groups should take it all year round.
RISKS: It can reduce the effectiveness of high blood pressure medicine and statins.
And other vitamins?
BEYOND vitamin D, if you’re healthy and eat a balanced diet it’s hard to be deficient in other nutrients, such as A, B and C vitamins.
Getty – Contributor Multivitamins are the most popular supplements, but users can’t use the supplements to replace a healthy diet
If you eat red meat, dairy products and leafy green veg you’re probably getting enough iron and calcium.
Diets high in fruit and veg are proven to reduce the risk of certain cancers, but there’s no evidence to show multivitamin supplements have the same benefits.
Fruit and vegetables also contain fibre and other beneficial nutrients, such as antioxidants and flavonoids.
Omega 3 fish oils contain fatty acids known as EPA and DHA, which have proven benefits, but you can get these by eating two portions of fish a week, including an oily one such as salmon, trout or mackerel.
Cod liver oil is a good source of vitamins A and D, and also contains EPA and DHA, but its reputation for reducing muscular pain, joint pain and stiffness is unproven.
MULTIVITAMINSALTHOUGH multivitamins are the most popular supplements, most of us manage to get enough vitamins and minerals from the food that we eat.RISKS: You can’t use multivitamins to replace a healthy diet
Research shows they do not have the same benefit.
Can they cause harm?
THE research also found that some supplements were not only unnecessary, but potentially harmful.
Getty – Contributor Omega 3 fish oils have proven benefits, but a healthier alternative is consuming two portions of fish a week
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For example, too much vitamin D over a long period can cause a build-up of calcium in the body, which can weaken bones and damage the kidneys and heart.
The Government recommends taking only 10mcg daily. But Which? found pills being sold with much higher doses than this.
Myvitamins Vitamin D3 capsules contain 62.5mcg, while BetterYou DLux 3000 daily vitamin D oral spray contains 75mcg per spray.
Although overdosing is one way vitamins and supplements can do more harm than good, even standard doses can interfere with the way prescription medicines work.
Vitamin D, cod liver oil, omega 3 oils and glucosamine can all interfere with medications for many conditions, including high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes.
OMEGA 3THE fish oils EPA and DHA have proven benefits.But eating two portions of fish a week, one oily, will give you all you need.
If you don’t eat oily fish, consider an Omega 3 supplement
RISKS: Can interact with blood-thinning medications and those for high blood pressure.
So you can’t trust labels?
BE dubious – particularly as they don’t always do what they say.
Getty – Contributor Glucosamine is found in supplements for join health, and it hasn’t been proven to help, it can also interact with diabetic medicines
Glucosamine is found in supplements for joint health, mobility and flexibility, but there’s not enough evidence that it helps with any of these, and it has no authorised health claims.
The packaging of Bioglan Glucosamine Plus says the supplement “helps support bone health, cartilage health and energy metabolism”.
But in reality, all of these claims are based on the inclusion of vitamin C in the supplement, which is essentially the active ingredient.
Bioglan Glucosamine Plus costs £14.99 for 30 tablets. Switching to Boots vitamin C 200mg tablets (99p for 30 tablets) would save more than £350 a year.
Getting enough vitamin C naturally, and ditching the supplements altogether, would save you even more, said Which?.
GLUCOSAMINETHIS is found in supplements for joint health, but it isn’t proven to help.Such health claims are based on vitamin C, which is usually added to glucosamine supplements.
Vitamin C deficiencies are rare.
RISKS: Glucosamine can interact with blood-thinning and diabetes medications.
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