Nutritionist

Every so often a new study will be published and as a result, newspaper headlines will announce that vitamin supplements are just a waste of money. But are the headlines telling the full story? Do these studies mean that all nutritional supplements are a waste of money? We don’t think so!

Eating a balanced and varied diet rich in fruit and vegetables will help supply adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals. And it’s thought that the combination of nutrients, fibre and water in fresh fruit and vegetables is more beneficial than relying on supplements alone. But not everyone reaches the 5-a-day recommendation for fruit and vegetables – a supplement can help prevent deficiency in these cases, and others can benefit from supplement use.

Here are just some examples of beneficial supplements:

Folic acid – taking 400ìg per day of folic acid before and in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy has been proven to help prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida.

Vitamin B12 – this vitamin only occurs naturally in foods of animal origin so vegans can be at risk of deficiency. A vitamin B12 supplement can help prevent deficiency and pernicious anemia in those who do not get adequate dietary vitamin B12.

Iron – deficiency of iron can lead to anaemia. Vegetarians, vegan and young women may not get enough dietary iron to meet their needs and may benefit from supplements. Taking iron supplements should be done under medical supervision.

Individuals with digestive disorders such as Crohn’s disease, ulcers or other malabsorption problems can benefit from a vitamin supplement, such as a B vitamin complex, as absorption from food is compromised. Some medications, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, can also compromise B vitamin, absorption. Again, supplements in these cases should be taken under medical supervision.

So look beyond those headlines – not all vitamin pills are a waste of money!