Research on the benefits of supplements is contradictory, so what vitamin pills do the doctors take?By Anna Hodgekiss
Last updated at 8:42 PM on 17th October 2011
Nearly a third of us take a vitamin, mineral or dietary supplement. But while there’s no doubt some are vital — such as folic acid in pregnancy to prevent birth defects — many experts believe that, for most of us, supplements are unnecessary.
They put the popularity of these pills (we spend £670 million on them a year) down to successful marketing aimed at the worried well rather than any genuine need.
And there are safety issues, too. Last week, a study of 39,000 women in the Archives Of Internal Medicine found multivitamins, vitamin B, iron, magnesium and copper increased the statistical risk of premature death.
So what do medics think about supplements — and which do they think are worth taking?
However, when it comes to other supplements designed for men’s health, I’m not so sure. For example, saw palmetto is often mentioned as an alternative treatment for an enlarged prostate as it may improve urination problems and shrink the prostate.
But there are also lots of unidentified compounds in it and it’s expensive. Alpha-blockers are proven to work for an enlarged prostate.
I take high-dosage vitamin C — 3,000mg, higher than the recommended dose — at the onset of a cold or flu. Research suggests a full-blown attack can be averted by doing this for three days.
THE CANCER EXPERT
We have incredibly sensitive systems in our bodies to keep our nutritional needs in balance, so if you’re eating a normal diet then your body will excrete the ingredients in most vitamins.
There is a high incidence of heart disease in my family and a wealth of research has shown these can help protect against this condition.
I’m a keen runner and my joints (especially my knees) take a battering. The research on omega-3s on swollen and tender joints is promising. They’re a good investment, perhaps even an insurance policy.
THE LIVER EXPERT
THE GUT EXPERT
Every morning I have a big bowl of muesli with dried fruit and a banana. Oats, as well as the sugars in apricots, bananas, dates and prunes, provide prebiotics.
I don’t take fish oils because my wife and I eat a lot of fish. However, I do take calcium and vitamin D, as I have been diagnosed with osteoporosis.
I take 1,500mg of fish oils to help boost my levels of ‘good’ cholesterol and 1,000IU of vitamin D3 in summer and 2,000 in winter to protect against bone thinning.
I also take 200mg of selenium, as it’s said to have anti-cancer properties, and a lycopene tablet for sun protection.
I think it’s best to eat green, leafy veg, such as spinach, that contain carotenoids, and also oily fish rich in Omega 3, which help to protect eye health.
THE HEART EXPERT
I give similar advice about popular cholesterol-lowering products; they do lower the cholesterol, but there is no evidence they reduce heart attacks and stroke.
Oats have cholesterol-lowering properties — it’s much cheaper to invest in a bowl of porridge each morning.