Do you need to buy a vitamin supplement?

Do you need to buy a vitamin supplement?

Until the 20th century we thought the only nutrients needed in a human diet for health, growth and reproduction were protein fats, and carbohydrates. This changed when we discovered that tiny quantities of additional nutrients were also essential to human life... vitamins and minerals.

Vitamins are divided into two categories fat soluble, A,D,E and K and water soluble, Bs (1,2,6,12) Folate is B9 and Vitamin C.

The absence of a vitamin leads to both general and specific symptoms. The most common general symptom is fatigue and tiredness and in children causes restriction of growth. “More than enough is not better than enough”, as excessive intakes of vitamins have also shown to have adverse effects. High intakes of Vitamin A, animal sources (Retinol) can damage an unborn baby, thus all pregnant women are advised to stay away from liver and cod liver oil. High intakes of Vitamin A vegetable sources (Beta-carotene) have shown that in regular smokers, increases the risk of cellular damage i.e. cancer cells. High intakes of vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) have shown to lead to nerve damage in humans. A study of high vitamin E intakes taken by triathletes before the Triathlon Kona World championships showed that high doses actually caused inflammation in the athletes. Although heavy and prolonged sport training can be associated with a reduced immune function, there is currently no evidence that high intakes of vitamins, improves sports performance.

The exact amount needed per vitamin per individual varies. Vitamin and mineral requirements are based on a number of factors such as height, weight, sex, physical activity level, pregnancy or breastfeeding and surprisingly climate, altitude and even heart rate! With all that in mind in the UK we have guidance on what levels are required for each individual. If your diet is consistently lacking vitamins and minerals then the recommendations you require, the more likely you are to be deficient.

Do you need to buy a vitamin supplement? If you are following a balanced diet then you will be obtaining your vitamin and mineral requirements from your diet. You may require a vitamin supplement if you are:

·         Pregnant and or breastfeeding (this has to be discussed with a Dietitian)

·         Athletes who believe they have a poor diet.

·         Any restrictive diets e.g. dairy free diets, very low calorie diets (VLCDs), food allergies.

Dietitian Claire offers a full dietary analysis to assess if your vitamins (and other nutrients) are meeting your individual requirements. Claire can also advise about improving your vitamin and mineral intake, the cost of this is £35 and includes up to 1 hour consultation. Claire Chaudhry.