Vitamins – choosing and using

As many as 41 per cent of Britons obviously do believe they need vitamin and mineral supplements because they spend over £350 million a year on them. Here we look at how much to take, what to purchase, and when to take them.

For some people a good multivitamin and multimineral provides sufficient intake.
  
 
 
Combining vitamins and minerals

A number of supplements depend on the presence of others for optimum absorption and effectiveness:

  • Vitamin C or foods rich in the vitamin when you are taking iron;
  • To release Vitamin A into the system you should take zinc;
  • Vitamin E and selenium are helpful to each other;
  • The body can’t use calcium effectively without magnesium;
  • Vitamin D assists the absorption of calcium too;
  • Vitamin B6 requires Vitamin B2 to be effective so a B complex may be better
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High doses and RDAs
High doses of supplements may be vital to someone affected by PMS or menopause or more seriously ME, multiple sclerosis, PMS, irritable bowel and arthritis and other symptoms.
According to Patrick Holford, Founder of the Institute of Optimal Nutrition, ‘The RDAs (Recommended Daily Allowance) are levels which are designed to prevent deficiency, such as scurvy, beri beri and rickets, not to provide optimum health.
Patrick Holford

‘With some vitamins such as Vitamin C you could take 10 times the recommended daily allowance for specific problems. But for magnesium, calcium and zinc, for example, the RDAs are about the accurate amount that one should take.’

Ingredients

Some people take care to avoid eating wheat, dairy products, yeast, sugar, salt, artificial flavourings and sweeteners, without realising they are contained in the supplements they are taking.

For instance, pure Vitamin C is quite unpleasant to taste and bears no resemblance to the sweet-tasting orange tablets which children love because they are either laced with sugar or (even worse) sweeteners that have been linked to health problems.

READ THE LABEL:

  • Look carefully at the list of ingredients to avoid unwanted additives;
  • Become familiar with what they mean and go for the supplements where ‘added extras’ are left out;
  • Tinctures present no problems as they do not need binders, fillers or coatings;
  • Avoid supplements made from GM sources;
  • Look to see if sugar or an artificial sweetener is listed in the ingredients;
  • Check the list of fillers and binders – see “Acceptable Ingredients” below;
  • If there are any E numbers listed don’t buy!

Fillers

Tablets (but not capsules) usually need additional materials to make up their bulk and these are called fillers or excipients while binders bind all the ingredients together. Some of the commonly used excipients are shellac – insect resin – and talc, which most of us don’t fancy eating!

Acceptable ingredients

Dicalcium phosphate; cellulose; alginic acid/sodium alginate; gum acacia/gum arabic; calcium stearate or magnesium stearate (vegetarians should check if this is animal or vegetable source); silica; zein; and Brazil wax.

From: The Optimum Nutrition Bible, Patrick Holford

Coatings

Some proprietary brands contain cochineal which is considered by Patrick Holford, to be one of the top 20 additives to be avoided, as it is linked to asthma and rhinitis. It’s made from the dried bodies of an insect found on cactus plants!

Absorption

When it comes to choosing between tincture, capsules, tablets or vegi caps, Patrick Holford, claims, ‘There isn’t much difference between them. The advantage of a tablet or capsule is that you can pack in more ingredients. A concentrated extract is absorbed quicker – but you need to take higher doses to equal the amount packed into a tablet.

‘Manufacturers carry out disintegration tests on their products using simulated gastric juices. Capsules or vegi caps dissolve quickly, but tablets made by good manufacturers will completely disintegrate in 10 minutes.’

What is foodstate?

Some supplements incorporate the vitamin or mineral in a more complex molecule so that they are in the form they appear naturally – sometimes known as foodstate. They are better absorbed by the body and can be more powerful.

 When to take vitamins

If you take a number of supplements you don’t want to be remembering C at meal times, B in between, A at bedtime and so on. The most important thing is to remember to take your supplements every day and it’s easier to remember if you take them at a set time. Many supplements have to be taken with a meal so breakfast is a good time to enable you to get the most of them throughout the day.

  • One main exception is calcium which should be taken at night time because bone regeneration takes place in your sleep;
  • Evening primrose oil and some of the fishy oils can make people feel a bit nauseous and it is obviously better to take those with food;
  • Any supplements containing isoflavones such as estroven, should be taken at the same time every day because they prompt a rapid increase in blood isoflavones which peaks within four hours and then decreases.

What is time release?

Time Release supplements release small quantities of the supplement over a prolonged period. They are most suitable for people who find it easier to take their supplements all together first thing in the morning.

 

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