Do vitamins, minerals and supplements work?
There are some scientists out there that say multivitamins and supplements do not work and that they are a waste of money. But there has been so much information in the media recently about Vitamin D helping to fight Covid-19. Also, there are so many people whose Vitamin D level drops really low in the winter, I am one of those people and I do find myself taking a Vitamin D supplement all year round, but doubling up on the dosage throughout the winter months. We know our body needs nutrients and vitamins to function. But can we get them all from the food we eat?
We are all trying to look after ourselves more, exercise more, eat and sleep better, to live our lives with as little stress as possible. But sometimes we are too busy, we don’t eat right, we don’t sleep well and find ourselves taking multivitamins to give a boost to our diet. Multivitamins are the most commonly used supplement in the world. They contain different vitamins and minerals and people do believe that they help.
The thirteen vitamins we need to maintain a healthy balance are A, C, D, E, K and the eight B vitamins. Our body doesn’t create these so we have to get them from our diet and the food we eat. So a multivitamin may not address all health concerns and you may just be lacking in one or two vitamins, so maybe you should take individual ones.
What do vitamins do?
For example, Calcium and Vitamin D help with bone health, B Vitamins help with energy and levels and neurological function and Vitamin C and Zinc help with the immune function. So what vitamins do what?
The main vitamins that we think of and their function are:-
Vitamin A – helps with vision, healthy skin and development.
Iron – Help with muscle function and maintain healthy blood,
Vitamin C – Good for antioxidant protection and skin health, helps to repair tissue, bones and teeth.
Calcium – For strong teeth and bones.
Vitamin E – Helps with healthy skin, circulation and antioxidant protection
Magnesium – Muscle function and strong bones and aids relaxation, helps maintain muscle and nerve function.
Vitamin D – Helps with bones, immune function and mood, helps to reduce inflammation but can be difficult to get from food sources.
Zinc – For immunity, fertility and skin. Defends against toxins and helps develop T-cells which help to fight off viruses.
Vitamin B – Good for energy levels and brain function, B12 helps the body to convert food to energy.
If you want a more in-depth description of each vitamin and what they do have a read here.
Then there are the Omega 3’s, these help with brain function, memory and performance. It helps reduce high blood pressure and calm inflammation. Probiotics can help with digestion and gut health and helps to fight off disease-causing bacteria.
But taking a good multivitamin or individual ones can help with your heart, reduce cancer, boost immunity, healthy hair and skin, and generally make us feel better. But also you can need certain vitamins and supplements at different times in your life. For example, if you are pregnant you may to up your intake of Iodine and Folate. Women over 50 years old tend to need more B vitamins, Calcium and Vitamin D due to hormonal changes and going through the menopause, and the other end of the spectrum is if you suffer from heavy periods you may find yourself deficient in Iron, which can lead to anaemia. If you are Vegan or Vegetarian you may need to take Vitamin B12, which is mostly found in animal products.
Are vitamins and supplements safe to take?
Most vitamins and supplements are safe to take. But some can react to certain medicines. Too much of the following vitamins can have an adverse effect:
Vitamin E – High doses can lead to a stroke by causing bleeding in the brain.
Vitamin D & Calcium – Too much of these can increase the risk of kidney stones.
Vitamin K – Can interfere with the anti-clotting effects of blood thinners.
Vitamin B6 – High amounts can cause nerve damage.
Vitamin C – Even too much of this vitamin can cause nausea, diarrhoea and stomach cramps.
Do we need to take vitamins?
The general consensus seems to be that if you eat a well-balanced diet, you do not need to take a vitamin supplement. So how do you know if you are deficient in any of them? Fatigue and low energy seem to be the biggest symptom if you are constantly exhausted even after a good night sleep. If you have aching joints and muscle pain, loss of appetite and hair loss. There are many different symptoms and you should always seek medical advice if you ever feel unwell. A visit to your GP to discuss your symptoms will probably lead to blood tests to find out if you are deficient in anything, then you can discuss any treatments from there.
I know there are people out there that swear by the vitamins and supplements they take on a daily basis, and they do not come cheap, with one person spending around £200 per month on various pills and potions. But they do say that they feel amazing, and they are never ill, but they do also eat well and look after themselves, but I think I would struggle to get them to stop taking their supplements.
Should I take it?
So I suppose the decision is really up to you. I am not saying at all that you have to rush out and spend a fortune on stocking up with various vitamins and minerals. I think you should listen to your body, how does it feel? Do you feel constantly exhausted, are you always catching colds and just generally feeling run down, maybe do some investigative research for yourself. Speak to your GP, get some advice. Your local health shop is usually very knowledgeable and can probably point you in the right direction. So see what you think, try taking a multivitamin and see if it makes you feel any better!