One in three Brits now take a daily nutritional supplement. And the UK vitamins, herbs, enzymes, amino acids and minerals market is estimated to have netted and incredible £442million last year alone, according to research by Mintel.
Yet when it comes to NHS guidelines, the Department of Health only recommends vitamin D during winter, folic acid in early pregnancy and, for children aged six months to five years, daily vitamin A, C and D, adding that most people should get all the nutrients they need by having a varied and balanced diet.
So what supplements do medical professionals believe are worth paying for? We asked a group of doctors and health experts which pills they pop.
Dr Miriam Stoppard, GP and medical writer
I’ve never been keen on taking vitamins or supplements of any kind unless there’s a medical need for them.
I know this is boring but I need to know there’s proof that something is effective before I’m prepared to take it.
With supplements there’s really no scientific evidence they work, so I pass.
One of my major reasons for not taking them is that the body isn’t designed to absorb our essential nutrients in tablet or capsule form.
They simply pass through the intestine and are excreted.
Vitamins and essential minerals must be part of the hundreds of micronutrients that are found in foods in order for the body to use them.
My own preference is to use foods as ‘supplements’, including Brazil nuts for selenium, broccoli for calcium, dark green leaves for iron and folic acid, oily fish for omega 3, avocado for omega 6, eggs for the B vitamins, bananas for potassium, seafood for zinc and iodine, yellow/orange fruit and veg for betacarotene, tomatoes for lycopene, mushrooms for chromium… The list goes on and on.
Pharmacist Shabir Daya, CEO of Victoria Health
I consider a multivitamin to be my insurance policy against possible deficiencies, even when my diet is rich in healthy foods.
I tend to go for food state multivitamins such as Alive Ultra Potency Multivitamins, which are easier to absorb.
Fish oils contain omega-3 fatty acids and promote a stronger immune system, cardiovascular health, plus joint and vision health, aside from reducing inflammation which is one of the causal factors for the ageing of the body.
I have just started using Viridian Nutrition’s Trout Oil Capsules as most other fish oils (especially liver oils) tend to be highly refined and may even contain heavy metals or other contaminants.
I take a vitamin D3 supplement on an almost daily basis.
I opt for Better You’s DLux Sprays which provide rapid absorption through the tiny blood vessels inside the cheeks and under the tongue, delivering almost the entire dose into the bloodstream.
Tablets and capsules may be compromised as they have to pass through the harsh acidic environment of the stomach.
I also take Mega Probiotic ND by Food Science of Vermont, which provides eight acid-resistant strains of probiotic bacteria to colonise the gut where they can enhance the immune system, help digest food more efficiently and prevent pathogens from taking a hold within the body.
Most of us simply do not have sufficient of these beneficial bacteria because of stress, poor diet, antibiotic usage and pollutants.
Dr Sohere Roked, GP and hormone specialist
I don’t always take the same supplements but at the moment I am taking a vitamin D3 mouth
spray (4,000IU per day), because I use an SPF moisturiser to slow down skin ageing, so my level tends to be on the low side.
Vitamin K2 is important for cardiovascular and bone health, and works in tandem with the D3. It is a hugely underrated vitamin in my opinion and a recent blood test showed my levels were low.
I also take a curcumin tablet – it is a turmeric extract which has anti-inflammatory effects and is also a strong antioxidant, as well as a rainbow trout oil to provide omega-3 fatty acids.
Recently I have started taking Dermacoll collagen supplement to trick my skin into boosting its own collagen production.
It’s a superior quality bovine collagen which is more similar to human collagen than marine types.
Finally, for gut health maintenance, I take OptiBac Extra Strength probiotics and drink Chuckling Goat kefir, a fermented milk drink, each morning.
Dr Rosemary Leonard MBE, GP and medical writer
The only supplement I take every day is 800IU of vitamin D, although I stop this in the summer months when I spend a lot of time gardening.
Otherwise I try to eat a healthy balanced diet, with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, which is by far the best way of obtaining all the nutrients I need.
I have oily fish (usually salmon) and also some red meat at least once a week.
However, I’m aware that sometimes, especially when I’ve had a long busy day in the surgery, that my diet isn’t as good as it should be, so the following day I take a balanced multivitamin and mineral supplement.
I certainly don’t take one every day though, as this would mean I would be having an excess of vitamin A, which can increase the risk of osteoporosis.
Dr Stefanie Williams, medical doctor and specialist dermatologist at Eudelo
Genetic tests found I am predisposed to not converting B vitamins into the form the body can use, so I take a methylated B vitamin supplement which is a formulation which is more easily processed.
Being low on B vitamins can affect my mood and energy, and it also increases risk of certain diseases in the future.
The same tests showed my vitamin D level is often low and I am less able to absorb it from food and sunshine.
I also have low iron levels, so I take that daily as well as a superfood supplement to make sure I have enough antioxidants.
Currently, I’m taking probiotics to help replenish my good gut bacteria as I’ve just finished a course of antibiotics for a tooth infection.
Dr Victoria Manning, aesthetic doctor
I’m one of these people that worries about everything.
I used to take beta blockers to help me calm down, but after I had an operation to remove a gallstone a friend recommended I try Zenflore to help me recover.
It’s a live culture probiotic with selected B vitamins which specifically target mood.
I used to get palpitations but since I’ve been taking the probiotic the butterfly effect has calmed down and my sleep has also improved – previously I was waking up once or twice a night.
Now I just sleep straight through.
Treating the gut as a primary cause of health problems makes sense to me, so I take this daily now.
I also take a range of bio-identical hormones, a natural alternative to HRT, after blood tests revealed a hormonal imbalance.
In my capacity as a GP I’ve seen many women struggle with the menopause and HRT over the years so I wanted to find a different way to help them – and myself.
These are formulated specifically to suit the individual based on their blood test results and have made a big difference to my menopausal symptoms, tiredness, thinning skin and hair, weight gain and bone density.
Professor Angus Dalgleish, leading cancer specialist and Principal of the Institute for Cancer Vaccines and Immunotherapy (ICVI)
Personally, I have been taking a daily anti-inflammatory for three decades. For years, I took aspirin on a daily basis to keep inflammation at bay.
Inflammation can aid and abet the development of cancer tumours and their spread around the body.
It has been known for a long time that daily aspirin will reduce polyps developing into cancer by 50%.
Also, we know that those with inflammatory activity react far less efficiently to cancer treatment, so it is a good idea to stay on top of this.
Now I take 500mg of bromelain, an enzyme found in the core of pineapples, which is a natural anti-inflammatory and an excellent alternative to aspirin.
Currently, I also take vitamin D3, which is the best form because it is bio available, which means it’s absorbed very well by the body.
Other variants of vitamin D, for example, D2, are ineffective, which is why some early studies of the vitamin were negative.