An estimated 1 in 3 people in the UK now take daily multivitamins.
Simply put, it is important to make sure that you are consuming all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients that your body needs. It can be tricky to get everything you need from diet alone, especially nowadays when many of us don’t have time to research and prepare detailed meal plans covering off every nutrient. This where multivitamins come in – they can act as a safety net to ensure that your body is getting everything it needs.
As we grow older, our body operates less efficiently. Our digestive system may not be able to absorb as much of the nutrients from our food as it used to be able to do. This could in turn result in vitamin deficiencies, compounded with any chronic diseases which may have developed or regular medications taken which interfere with absorption or digestion.
An estimate of vitamin E deficiency suggests that around 50% of pensioners may be deficient in this vitamin, and the UK Department of Health recommends that pensioners take a daily vitamin D supplement. One scientific report suggested that the risk of cataracts was reduced by the long term consumption of a daily multivitamin.
For those reasons, older people might like to take a multivitamin containing vitamin D, iron, vitamin C and calcium amongst other vitamins and minerals.
During Intense Physical Activity
Leading an active lifestyle is important to ensure the body is healthy – but those of us who are very active (such as athletes or bodybuilders) will need to consume more nutrients than sedentary individuals. Vitamin deficiency (for example in the B vitamins which support digestion and the nervous systems) can have a negative effect on performance. Therefore, people who are embarking on an enhanced exercise regime should consider whether a specially designed multivitamin is suitable for them.
Pregnant or Trying To Conceive
Important: Vitamin A supplements should never be taken without consulting a medical professional. Too much vitamin A can harm your unborn baby.
Pregnant women (or those trying to conceive) often look to supplement their nutrient intake with multivitamins specifically designed to support their body. These supplements might contain folic acid (vitamin B9) – one of the key vitamins that can help support a healthy pregnancy and avoid birth defects, as well as vitamin D, iron, vitamin C and calcium.
Babies and Children
Children, including breast-fed babies, should take vitamin D supplements (the dosage varies by age – you should check this carefully before purchasing any supplements). Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to rickets – a bone problem which had all but died out in the UK but has been increasingly reported in the last few years. You can read more about Vitamin D here.
In addition to vitamin D supplements, the UK government recommends that vitamin A and C supplements should be taken by children aged from 6 months to 5 years old. Vitamin C will help to boost their immune system, and vitamin A helps to develop healthy vision.
Digestive Problems and Chronic Illness
Sufferers of chronic or digestive illnesses affecting the body’s ability to absorb nutrients like IBS, Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis might benefit from a multivitamin with probiotics or added digestive enzymes to support their digestive system.
Getting The Balance Right
Buying the wrong multivitamin can be a waste of your time and money. If the vitamins aren’t able to be absorbed by your body, then they will simply be excreted and you won’t benefit. You should read the instructions to check if the vitamins need to be taken with food and/or water to be absorbed into your system – you can read more on water and fat soluble vitamins here.
Likewise, you should ensure that high quality, natural ingredients are being used, and that you have chosen a product that complements your diet. It’s always a good idea to speak to a medical professional before making any changes to your lifestyle and nutrition. For example, an excess of vitamins A, D, or E can collect in the body and become harmful to your health.