Should I take vitamin supplements?

Supplements don’t cure diseases but they can give your body the best chance of functioning normally.

Food is medicine so a healthy balanced diet should provide all the nutrients you need.  Yet, year after year diet surveys in the UK show that most of us don’t eat the right things.  Experts recommend we eat five portions of fruit and vegetables daily and this is due to increase but we currently only eat three or four portions a day.  Oily fish should be eaten at least once a week, yet more than two thirds of people never eat it.  It’s no wonder then that our vitamin and mineral levels fall short of optimal levels. The National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) reveals that 12% of women are failing to achieve adequate intakes of riboflavin (a B vitamin) found in meat and fish.  The picture is worse with certain minerals like iron.

Blood levels of vitamins and minerals give a clearer picture of the risk of deficiency.  It takes away the guess work and the results come back quickly.  The NDNS tells us that one in ten women are anaemic while up to 30 per cent of women don’t have enough iron stores in their bodies which can lead to anaemia. This causes fatigue and affects mental performance.  Vitamin D deficiency is also present in 20 per cent of women and girls, affecting immune function and long-term bone health.

In an ideal world we would all stock up on nutrient-rich foods such as fruit, vegetables, seeds, nuts wholegrain carbs, lean red meat, oily fish, low fat dairy foods.  We would stop consuming so much alcohol and fizzy drinks and eating so many sweets and cakes.  I still hope that this might happen but I’m not optimistic.  This is why that I think that vitamin and mineral supplements have an important role to play in our diets especially at critical stages in our life such as children, teenagers, pregnant and during the menopause.  They don’t cure diseases necessarily, but what they can do is top up your dietary levels of nutrients so you are at least meeting recommended levels.  This gives your body the best chance of functioning normally in a stressful world that we can work and live in.