Food supplements: why not, but with caution

Food supplements include mainly vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which come as capsules, phials or herbal teas.

Between 15 to 20% of British people buy one or more food supplements to help lose weight, to help fight the signs of ageing or obtain a rapid suntan

As these products are sold without prescription, people that buy food supplements, are unaware of the risks of taking them especially when many of our every day foods contain all the vitamins and minerals we need.

Deficiencies in vitamins and mineral are rather rare and occur primarily in some underprivileged social classes.

Nowadays, all European food supplements are subjected to European legislation, which fixes a great number of requirements regarding safety as well as customer information.


Vitamin supplements are not normally required for healthy people that eat a well balanced diet. However, during times of stress and illness when our diets maybe affected, a small course of vitamins can be beneficial.

Vitamins are essential for growth, repair and to help our bodies function.

Vitamins A, D, E and K are primarily found in animal products and vegetable oils.

Eating a varied and well balanced diet of fruit and vegetables regularly brings sufficient antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin B and vitamin B12.

The overconsumption of vitamins and food supplements can have long-term harmful effects

Food supplements and vitamins taken unnecessarily and in large amounts can be harmful and have side effects. It is recommended that medical advice is sort and a prescription obtained if supplements are required.

The recommended daily allowance, RDA, must always be followed.

No food supplement can replace the vitamins contained in fruit and vegetables: for example, there is more vitamin C in eating an orange than there is taking a vitamin C tablet.

Some food supplements and vitamins can interacted with other prescribed medication.

What is recommended

  • If elderly, had a recent illness, have concerns about your diet or absorption of vitamins then seek medical advice
  • Get specialist help if you intend to take food supplements for several months or years.
  • Buy your supplements from reputable shops and be wary of Internet stores as their quality and content varies.
  • Be wary of the marketing slogans they can be misleading and provide false information.
  • If taking a variety of food supplements check the contents so as to prevent overdosing on certain vitamins.
  • Do not take food supplements for long periods of time without seeking advice first.
  • Do not exceed the recommended daily allowance, RDA.
  • For conditions such as Age Related Macular Degeneration, such specialist vitamin supplements are prescribed and are essential to preventing deterioration of the disease process.

Omega 3 fatty acids

Omega 3 - fatty acids are essential polyunsaturated fatty acids and are found in animal and vegetable fats present in food. They can be obtained through food or food supplements
  • rapeseed, nut, linseeds oils
  • fish, anchovy, sardines, tuna, salmon, mackerel, herring, fish oil
  • eggs, milk...

Advice on taking omega 3 supplements

  • Buy them from reputable stores.
  • Take for a duration of one to three months as a maximum
  • Take care not to overdose and seek nutritionist advice if necessary
  • Omega 3 and antioxidants are important in our diet to fight and kills off harmful cells in our body, however, too much of these can be harmful and have the opposite effect. .
  • Studies suggest a number of people consuming these "pills" in large quantities and over a long period of time can increase the risk of lung cancer.
  • Antioxidants are not recommended in pregnancy, for people suffering from a cancer or those with risk factors for developing cancer.
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