Nutritional supplements are used by over 40% of UK adults and the industry is worth over £200 million per year. The majority of supplements are in fact taken by those with the best diets and many are taken without professional advice. According to the National Diet and Nutrition Surveys the current pattern of use is for many nutrients only associated with a reduction of approximately 1% in the percentage of the population whose intake is poor, below the Lower Reference Nutrient Intake, for that nutrient.
Where possible, nutritional deficiencies should be resolved by dietary means but this is not always achievable and those with a severe deficiency or an established illness may require a more rapid resolution than can be obtained by diet alone. Judicious use of supplements will be beneficial to many with or at risk of deficiency and the following guide is intended to help those whose problems cannot be resolved by diet alone.
Those who choose to take supplements should still make every effort to eat a healthy and appropriate diet.
Reference to nutritional supplements is purely generic and there is no direct link from this website to that of a supplement manufacturer or retailer. The reader is also advised, before purchasing or taking a supplement to check that they do not have a major contraindication to taking nutritional supplements or a minor contraindication. Those who are under the care of their GP or specialist should also seek appropriate advice. Furthermore it may be unwise to take supplements for a Persistent period of time without seeking advice from your doctor or a dietician or qualified nutritionist.
Readers should be informed that the author is in receipt of a small royalty from the sale of one particular nutritional supplement but no mention of that supplement nor its manufacturer is made on this web site.
Guide to Common Nutritional Supplements
|Type of Supplement||Typical Composition||Main Uses||Comments and Warnings|
|General A to Z multivitamin/mineral||RDA amounts of most vitamins, trace elements and some calcium||General use by adults age 18 to 49 years||Use with Cod Liver Oil may provide too much vitamin A|
|50 + A to Z multivitamin/mineral||As above but with higher amounts of vitamin D and trace elements||General use by adults aged > 50 yrs||Use with Cod Liver Oil may provide too much vitamin A|
|Simple multivitamins with iron||RDA amounts of vitamins and iron||Menstruating women especially those with heavy periods||Use with Cod Liver Oil may provide too much vitamin A|
|Pre-pregnancy or pregnancy multivitamins||RDA levels of vitamins, iron and zinc + folic acid 400ug||Those who are trying to become or are pregnant||Must contain 400ug of folic acid in order to prevent birth defects|
|Vitamin A||Content should not exceed 800 ug/daily dose||Those with or at risk of deficiency, which is rare||Persistent use may increase the risks of cancer and osteoporosis|
|Beta-carotene||7-15 mg||Those with or at risk of vitamin A deficiency||Smokers and those exposed to asbestos may develop more lung cancer|
|Low dose vitamin B complex||1-5 mg of most B vitamins||Those at risk of mild deficiency||May not contain folic acid and other B vitamins|
|High strength vitamin B complex||10-100 mg of most B vitamins||Those with severe deficiency especially heavy alcohol consumers||May discolour urine yellow due to the riboflavin – vitamin B2|
|Folic acid||400 ug||Those who are trying to become or are pregnant||A pregnancy multi supplement maybe more appropriate for those with a poor diet|
|Vitamin B12||1-10 ug||Those with or at risk of dietary deficiency e.g. vegans||No contraindications|
|Niacin||50-500 mg||Those with elevated blood cholesterol level||Flushing and itching occurs frequently|
|10-100 mg||Women with premenstrual syndrome||Doses >200mg/day can cause peripheral neuropathy|
|Biotin||200-1000 ug||Those with or at risk of deficiency||No contraindications|
|Vitamin C||100-1000 mg||Those with or at risk of deficiency: smokers, elderly and a poor diet||Deficiency is corrected within a few weeks|
|Vitamin D||10 ug||Those with or at risk of deficiency||Calcium supplement are also often needed if intake is inadequate|
|Vitamin E||200-600 IU||To lower the risk of vascular disease||Benefits are unclear|
|Vitamin K||Rarely available alone||Used now as apart of multi preparations and to treat osteoporosis||Inappropriate for those on warfarin medication|
|500 mg + 5 ug||For the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis and for those with an inadequate diet or increased need||Often used in the elderly, others with an increased risk of osteoporosis or an inadequate diet especially if pregnant or breast-feeding|
|Calcium||200-600 mg||For those with an inadequate diet or increased need||Vitamin D or multi- vitamin supplement may also be needed|
|Calcium and magnesium||300 mg + 150 mg||For those with an inadequate diet or increased need||Only use if both minerals are required. Excess may cause diarrhoea|
|Magnesium||75-150 mg||Those with or at risk of deficiency or if constipation or premenstrual syndrome||Excess Magnesium may cause diarrhoea|
|Iron low dose||5-15 mg||Those with or at risk of mild deficiency||Better absorbed if taken with fruit / juice|
|Iron high dose||30-65 mg||Those with anaemia or proven iron deficiency e.g. from very heavy periods or bleeding||Better absorbed if taken with fruit / juice. Excess may cause diarrhoea and black stools|
|Zinc||5-30 mg||Those with deficiency e.g. elderly, weight loss and malabsorption||May rarely cause abdominal pain. Persistent use should be supervised.|
|Chromium||100-200 ug||Those with deficiency e.g. elderly and poor diet||Seems very safe|
|Selenium||100-200 ug||Those with or at risk of deficiency||Persistent use might increase the risk of diabetes|
|Selenium and Vitamins A, C and E||100-200 ug + variable||To help immune function and inflammatory conditions||Persistent use might increase the risks of diabetes and cancer|
|Copper||1-2 mg||Rarely required except by those with deficiency||Do not use for Persistent periods|
|Evening Primrose Oil||500-1000 mg||To help eczema, other skin problems and premenstrual breast tenderness||No contraindications|
|Borage Oil||500-1000 mg||To help eczema, other skin problems and premenstrual breast tenderness||No contraindications|
|Cod Liver Oil capsules||Vitamins A + D + EPA/DHA||To help arthritis, other inflammatory conditions, heart disease and prevent deficiency||Those who also use multivitamins may receive too much vitamin A|
|Cod Liver Oil Liquid||Vitamins A + D + EPA/DHA||To help arthritis, other inflammatory conditions, vascular disease and prevent deficiency||Those who also use multivitamins may receive too much vitamin A|
|Fish Oil||EPA/DHA||To help arthritis, other inflammatory conditions and vascular disease||Very high intakes might increase the risks of bleeding and possibly skin itching|