Many of us are talking about resolutions now the New Year is here. But trying to get ourselves in check after a boozy and indulgent Christmas is no mean feat. Some us hit the treadmill and others turn to more greens on our plate (and way less mince pies), while many look to adding extra supplements into our diets. After all, we’ve all read somewhere they’re good for you, right?
But are supplements and vitamins good for us, really? And just how good?
The evidence varies. But supplement taking can be both a good and bad thing.
Abbas Kanani, pharmacist at Chemist Click says if there was strong enough evidence to support supplements, they’d be prescribed on the NHS. She added: “Vitamin C has been widely marketed to help boost the immune system, especially when you’re run down, but multiple clinical trials have shown that it doesn’t help to cure or prevent the common cold.
“I’m also yet to find any evidence that vitamin B complex helps to boost energy levels.”
She thinks people buy into ad campaigns too much and they should look to their diets first. She adds: ” An excessive amount of anything is bad for you, and overloading your body with supplements is likely to cause health defects in the long run.”
Abbas says a well balanced diet is all your body needs to function optimally. “Any supplementary vitamins are likely to be surplus to requirements (excluding those under the age of 5, pregnant women and those deficient in vitamin D or iron).”
Nutritionist Alix Woods says some people need supplements more than others. Often those following vegan and veggie diets can benefit from a B12 or Zinc supplement. For others it’s far more complex as to whether they show signs of fatigue, a poor history of health, digestive issues…the list goes on.
Can iron help with energy levels?
If you need it, yes, if your iron levels are good then it can have a negative effect.
Alix says: “Taking iron when deficient will be helpful as iron is an important component of haemoglobin, the substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to your body. Without it the body can’t make enough healthy oxygen-carrying red blood cells and symptoms of fatigue are felt. It would be advisable, if a deficiency is suspected, to seek advice from a GP who can run a blood test to check levels.
“Supplementing unnecessarily can lead to iron toxicity in severe cases with ‘free’ iron damaging the brain and liver. Symptoms of an overdose are nausea, vomiting and pain in the stomach. ”
Does everyone need extra Vitamin D in a tablet form?
Harry Aitken, qualified Sports Scientist and Master Trainer for Auster says: “Without Vitamin D, only 10–15% of dietary calcium and about 60% of phosphorus is absorbed. We know Calcium is required for strong bones and reduces the risk of osteoporosis, so Vitamin D helps the absorption of necessary Calcium too.
“During the winter months it can be beneficial for people to supplement with it. Especially for office workers or those whose job means they don’t spend much/any of the day outside or with some sunlight on them.”
Can taking too many supplements negatively affect your health?
Alix says: “Yes, Vitamins A, D, E and K if taken in excess can be stored in the fat and liver and toxicity can occur. The body only needs very small amounts of these vitamins. Excess vitamin D can cause the body to absorb too much calcium, leading to calcium accumulation in organs and may lead to confusion, constipation, nausea, vomiting and poor appetite.
Harry says it can be detrimental to health but only if you’re taking vitamins in large quantities every day for an increased period.
Will you just excrete them if you do take too much?
Alix says: “Water soluble vitamins like Vitamins B and C will pass through the body via urine, but the others will not”.
She recommends Nature’s Plus Vitamin C, available from Revital. She says it is gentle on the stomach and recommended for the optimisation of immunity.
Is coconut oil beneficial or is it all hype?
Alix says coconut oil can help with lowering cholesterol and weight loss. It can help you feel full and satisfied as well as increase metabolism. Other benefits include nourished skin and nails as well as support for brain function.
Alix says: “The recommended dose is 2 tablespoons per day. It is advisable to increase to the full dose over a 7- 14 day period. This will help avoid nausea and loose bowels.”
How do you know if the place you are buying your supplements from is reputable?
Alix says: “Make checks. Is the supplier regulated by the Food Safety Act? Are the sellers of supplements registered as a Food Business Operator with the local authority? And are they approved by Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) authority?
Alix concludes that a healthy diet should be prioritised before deciding on whether supplements are needed. Ask a GP or dietician to help decide if you need anything else. Supplements shouldn’t replace healthy food.
Harry says apart from Vitamin D most people do not need extra supplements. He says it is in the interest of health and pharmaceutical companies that we keep spending our money on them. Harry said however there are exceptions: “Those who avoid certain foods because of allergies, intolerance, religion or dietary choice, should identify through blood work their intake of vitamins versus requirements. They should then adapt their diet or supplement intake to suit.”
So are supplements and vitamins good for us and worth having? We think save your pennies and look at your food plate first, unless of course your Doctor has said otherwise. On that note, if you’re getting unusual symptoms – check first.
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