Vitamins – do I need them?

It is a common belief that there is no need to take supplements when people eat a healthy diet. It is unlikely that anyone in our society consumes enough vitamins and minerals from their food alone. Apart from pesticides, insecticides and fertilisers which directly pollute our food, intensive farming has depleted the earth of vital minerals.

See Vitamins and minerals chart/Vitamins – choosing and using/Vitamins and minerals for kids

Optimum nutrition

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

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.

‘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.’

Also see Vitamins – Choosing and Using

Low levels of iron

A staggering 96 per cent of women aged 19 to 24 and 91 per cent 19 to 64 year old women have well below the recommended intake of iron, according to research undertaken by the Food Standards Agency and Dept of Health. Women lose iron every month when they have periods and this may account for such low levels, but their lack of iron means that their babies may be deficient too.

The result of low levels of iron in the blood are that you can be anaemic – not having enough red blood cells, and the symptoms are:

  • tiredness
  • loss of appetite
  • weakness
  • pale skin
  • restless legs.

You can get more iron by eating plenty of green leafy vegetables such as spinach, greens, and kale and from liver, red meat, pulses such as lentils, wholegrains and dried fruit. Sometimes people get constipation when they supplement iron, so you may find it better to have Spirulina which is high in iron or one of the liquid iron supplements.

Absorption is often hindered

  • Vitamins and minerals are needed for chemical reactions such as releasing energy from food or breaking down fat molecules;
  • Others build strong bones, keep skin supple and help us fight stress or pollution;
  • Additives in foods and antibiotics in meat adversely affect our immune systems.

With a healthy intestinal tract it is possible to absorb about 30 per cent of the zinc in food, but with a zinc deficiency the metabolism of Vitamins A and B6 suffers because the enzymes which convert them to usable forms are zinc dependent.

According to Alex Kirchin, Technical Manager, Viridian Nutrition (see Healthy Experts):

“If we eat an exclusively organic diet, it is possible to obtain most of the basic levels of nutrients we need, but in reality, the high levels of anti-nutrients generated by environmental pollutants combined with our stress-inducing society, mean that we need far more than the recommended daily allowance (RDA). We actually need optimum or super-nutrition and that can only be attained with food supplements.

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FURTHER READING:

The Vitamin Alphabet, Dr Christine Scott-Moncrieff – click on the Amazon carousel

The Optimum Nutrition Bible, Patrick Holford – click on the Amazon carousel

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