One in three of us takes a vitamin supplement each day – but new research warns against wasting money.
The health-conscious British spent about £ 442 million on a wide range of supplements, including fish oils, multivitamins, enzymes and amino acids.
These claim to improve almost every aspect of your health, from reducing pain to strengthening your immune system.
But a consumer survey mag Which? found some are just a waste of money. Today, Mr. Money reviews the results.
Do I need a supplement?
People who cut specific foods, follow a restricted diet or have an additional need for certain nutrients could benefit from supplements.
But the Ministry of Health recommends taking only vitamin D in winter and folic acid for pregnant women.
Children six months to five years old should take a multivitamin A, C and D.
Vitamin D supplements are recommended because it is difficult to get enough food from the two natural sources available: food and sun.
It keeps our immune system healthy and also helps to absorb calcium and phosphate, which keeps the bones, teeth and muscles in shape.
People at particular risk of deficiency, such as the elderly, people who do not spend much time outdoors and those with darker skin, should take a supplement all year round.
We need vitamin D for a healthy immune system and to absorb calcium and phosphorus.
Everyone should take 10 mg of vitamin D in autumn and winter.
Groups at risk should take it all year.
RISKS: It can reduce the effectiveness of drugs and statins against hypertension.
And other vitamins?
BEYOND vitamin D, if you are healthy and have a balanced diet, it is difficult to have a deficiency of other nutrients, such as vitamins A, B and C.
If you eat red meat, dairy products and leafy greens, you probably consume enough iron and calcium.
Diets high in fruits and vegetables have been shown to reduce the risk of some cancers, but there is no evidence that multivitamin supplements have the same benefits.
Fruits and vegetables also contain fiber and other useful nutrients, such as antioxidants and flavonoids.
Omega-3 fish oils contain fatty acids known as EPA and DHA, which have proven benefits, but you can get them by eating two servings of fish a week, including a fatty fish like salmon, trout or mackerel.
Cod liver oil is a good source of vitamins A and D, and also contains EPA and DHA, but its reputation for reducing muscle pain, joint pain and stiffness Is not proven.
Although multivitamins are the most popular supplements, most of us manage to get enough vitamins and minerals from the foods we eat.
RISKS: You can not use multivitamins to replace a healthy diet
Research shows that they do not have the same benefit.
Can they cause harm?
Research has also revealed that some supplements are not only useless, but also potentially harmful.
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For example, too much vitamin D over a long period of time can cause calcium build up in the body, which can weaken bones and damage the kidneys and heart.
The government recommends taking only 10 mg daily. But which one? found pills sold with doses much higher than that.
Vitamin D3 capsules of Myvitamins contain 62.5 μg, while the daily oral spray of BetterYou DLux 3000, Vitamin D, contains 75 μg per spray.
Although overdose is one way that vitamins and supplements can do more harm than good, even standard doses can interfere with the way prescription drugs work.
Vitamin D, cod liver oil, omega-3 oils and glucosamine can all interfere with medications in many conditions, including hypertension, cholesterol and diabetes.
EPA and DHA fish oils have proven benefits.
But eating two servings of fish a week, a fat one, will give you everything you need.
If you do not eat oily fish, consider an Omega 3 supplement
RISKS: May interact with anticoagulant drugs and those used for hypertension.
So you can not trust the labels?
Be dubious, especially since they do not always do what they say.
Glucosamine is present in supplements to improve joint health, mobility and flexibility, but there is not enough evidence to help in these areas, and no health claims are allowed.
The packaging of Bioglan Glucosamine Plus indicates that the supplement "contributes to healthy bones, cartilage and energy metabolism".
But in reality, all of these claims rest on the inclusion of vitamin C in the supplement, which is essentially the active ingredient.
Bioglan Glucosamine Plus costs £ 14.99 for 30 tablets. Switching to Vitamin B 200mg Vitamin C tablets (99% for 30 tablets) would save over £ 350 a year.
Having enough vitamin C naturally and dropping the supplements would save you even more, said Which?
This is found in supplements for joint health, but it has not been proven that it could help.
These health claims are based on vitamin C, which is usually added to glucosamine supplements.
Vitamin C deficiencies are rare.
RISKS: Glucosamine may interact with anticoagulants and antidiabetic medications.