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A brief look at dietary supplements

15 days to go

The dietary supplement industry is worth about £200 billion globally. In the UK it’s about £500 million for vitamins and minerals but if you include all the many proteins and sports supplements it’s reckoned to be around £15 billion. It continues to grow and its success is in large part attributed to advertising.

Dietary supplements include vitamins, minerals protein, amino acid, enzyme and botanicals. In the UK they are regulated as Foods and covered by the Food Safety Act.

Almost half of us take a supplement on a regular basis, mostly daily. Multivitamins are the most commonly used followed by fish oil and Vitamin C.

The reason for taking a supplement is in the name i.e. to fill in any gaps in we may have in our diet. Whilst it should be possible to get all the micronutrients we need from a varied and healthy diet especially one rich in different fruits and vegetables, from the numbers of people using supplements it appears as a nation we don’t think we are getting what we need.  People use supplements for many reason e.g. to help them lose weight or increase energy levels but the main reason seems to be to help improve their wellbeing.

A few instances where supplements are recommended:

i)  Women who are considering becoming or are pregnant are advised to take folic acid which is necessary for the developing foetus’ nervous system.
ii) Vegetarians and vegans may not get enough vitamin B12 in their diet as this comes mainly from animal food sources.
iii) Vitamin D is produced by the body when it is exposed to sunlight. During the winter months or if we spend little time outdoors then we are likely to be deficient so a Vitamin D supplement is advised.

Do be aware that while most supplements are safe when taken at the recommended dosage, some can be toxic if taken to excess such as Vitamin A and some may interfere with medication. If in doubt speak with your local pharmacist or your GP.

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