Supplements …. Too much of a good thing?

In Ireland, one in four of us is taking a nutritional supplement (Food Safety Authority of Ireland, 2008), often to make up for what we feel is a lack in our normal diet, or because we feel generally run down, or to help fight off colds in the winter. But can they really make a difference?

Vitamins, minerals and trace elements are needed for your body to work properly. However, that does not mean that taking a supplement is necessarily going to be beneficial.

There is a variety of reasons why taking supplements is not as effective as you have been lead to believe, these include the following:

  • Intakes of vitamins and minerals can be taken in much larger amounts in pill form than would ever be managed from food alone, potentially leading to an ‘over-dose’ of a particular vitamin or mineral.
  • In general supplements do not work as well as nutrients obtained from food as they are not as biologically active; that means the body cannot use them as efficiently.

So as much as certain companies would like you to believe the bottom line is….
If you have a balanced diet, for most of us it shouldn’t be necessary to have vitamin and mineral supplements.

However if you really want to take a supplement keep to a one-a-day vitamin and mineral that provides no more than the daily recommended amounts and avoid taking supplements of single vitamins or minerals.

There are as ever some exceptions where due to pregnancy, certain medical conditions, gut surgery or restricted diets that a supplement will be recommended.

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