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How to tackle the vitamin craze

Vitamins are all the rage, however experts stress that they shouldn’t substitute for a balanced diet. According to the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) most people with reasonable diets have no need to take supplements.

Vitamins are all the rage, however experts stress that they shouldn’t substitute for a balanced diet. According to the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) most people with reasonable diets have no need to take supplements. "In the western world, even those not following such great diets are usually getting adequate nutrition, and it’s not necessary to take multivitamins for general health," says Dr Trent Watson, dietitian at the DAA. However, many people like to take a multivitamin to make sure they get their Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI). Specific vitamins may be most beneficial during times of pregnancy, dietary restrictions and aging.

Remember real food

Why is real food a better source of vitamins than a multi? For three main reasons:
1.   Whole foods contain fibre and polyphenols which help guard against cancer, diabetes and heart disease
2.   Vitamins and minerals come in different forms that are absorbed in unique ways (their ‘bioavailability’). For example, Vitamin E can occur naturally in eight different forms, whereas a supplement holds only one form
3.  Other substances absorbed in food help vitamins and minerals to work inside our cells

When to buy vitamins

Supplements can be especially beneficial for people in the following groups:
·       Pregnant women (additional need for iron, folic acid, iodine, Vitamin D, calcium etc.)
·       People with reduced exposure to sunlight, for example the elderly (increased need for Vitamin D)
·       Vegans or elderly who are eating poorly or absorbing less vitamins (need for Vitamin B12)
·       Other people with restrictive diets, allergies or food deficiencies (supplement need dependent on the diet)

Check the ingredients on specialised formulas marketed to men, women or specific ages. Often the difference does not justify the extra cost. The main difference between brands is the amount of each vitamin contained and extras thrown in like ginseng, enzymes and amino acids. Herbs like ginseng are usually in too small doses to be significant in a multi. Experts recommend taking herbs separately if you wish to include them in your diet. Our pharmacists at Chemistworks can provide advice and assistance in finding the right vitamin for you.

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