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   Aug 25

Who NEEDS vitamin pills: As consumer group dismisses health claims of Britain’s favourite supplements, our experts insist they DO have proven benefits – if you take the right ones

Watchdog Which? warned supplements benefits are exaggerated

However, experts say it is a case of what, when and who takes them

The claims are beguiling: everything from fantastic skin and stronger joints to a healthier heart and immune system. For many, taking a health supplement is as routine as brushing our teeth.

More than a third of Britons regularly pop pills containing vitamins and minerals. Last year, we spent £385 million on these products.
But last week consumer watchdog Which? warned that the benefits of some bestselling brands are exaggerated. They said claims are being advertised that have been rejected by the EU.

Happy pills: Despite recent criticism, vitamins and supplements do have a positive effect on your health – if you take the right ones

A law change last December means health benefits on supplements must have EU approval. But of more than 44,000 health claims submitted, just 248 have so far been authorised.

So is the supplement market just a con? The answer, say experts, is no – as long as you take them correctly, and for the right reason.

‘Essentially Which? has examined the claims on packaging and looked at whether they are EU-approved. But many supplements have long been recommended for specific reasons by doctors, based on scientific evidence.

‘Just because the EU hasn’t approved a health claim doesn’t mean it isn’t true,’ says Lucy Jones, consultant dietician and spokesman for British Dietetic Association. ‘So in some ways supplement companies have been dealt a harsh blow.

‘Now they need overwhelming scientific evidence from randomised controlled trials, which they don’t yet have. But there may well be proof in ten or 20 years.

Popular popping: More than a third of Britons regularly take supplements and spent £385¿million on vitamins alone in 2012

‘I agree that companies shouldn’t say a product does something without proper evidence, but the problem is that most nutritional interventions don’t yet have adequate large-scale research. It would be wrong to interpret that as meaning they have no effect as some of these products are regularly prescribed by doctors and can very much help people’s health.’

The constant stream of conflicting research adds to the confusion.

While last month a study found fish oils were associated with a higher risk of prostate cancer, last week US researchers said it is effective in reversing liver disease in children with intestinal failure.
And there is a growing idea that supplements could even harm health. Last month an animal study found high doses of Vitamins C and E reduced lifespan by up to a quarter. And a review of studies into Vitamins A, E and C by Copenhagen University in 2007 suggested these appeared to increase risk of early death.

If you are on medication you should check with your doctor before taking a supplement as they can interact and cause problems.

Dr Carrie Ruxton, nutritionist and spokesman for the Health Supplements Information Service, says: ‘You should know why you are taking a supplement. And it is absolutely not the case that the more you take, the better. For instance, iron or Vitamin A can treat specific illnesses, but high doses are toxic.’

So who among us should take vitamins – and which ones? Here the experts explain.


Young uns: Children can be helped by multivitamins

WHAT A daily multivitamin.

WHY ‘All children aged between six months and five years should be given a daily multivitamin as they have very high nutritional needs yet not very big appetites so it’s difficult for them to get what they need,’ says Lucy Jones.

‘If you aren’t giving your children salmon or trout every week, I recommend a fish-oil supplement from about six months,’ says Dr Ruxton.

‘Fatty acids are vital for brain function and growth and low levels may be a risk for asthma, eczema or learning difficulties.’

The Department of Health recommends drops containing Vitamins A, C and D.
Children from one to ten need 30mg of Vitamin C a day.

This is provided by five child-sized portions of fruit and veg, but many youngsters refuse to eat them.


WHAT 800-1000iu of Vitamin D daily (or half that for children)

WHY Orthopaedic surgeons recommend this for people recovering from fractures because the vitamin helps regulate the amount of bone-building calcium in the body.

‘Vitamin D is actually a hormone,’ says Lucy Jones.

‘It also plays a role in immune function and its deficiency has been linked to obesity and mood disorders.’

Vitamin D is associated with muscle function – older people with a deficiency may fall more frequently
A recent French study found that Vitamin D and calcium supplementation resulted in 43 per cent fewer hip fractures.

Last year the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health stated that 25 per cent of UK children are deficient in Vitamin D


WHAT Daily fish oil with 3,000mg of DHA/EPA (a type of omega-3 fat).

WHY Studies have shown that omega-3 fats dampen inflammation that causes arthritis pain. ‘This dose is six times the recommendation so take medical advice,’ says dietician Helen Bond.


WHAT 450mg of EHA/EPA fish oil, 200iu Vitamin D and a daily multivitamin that includes minerals.

WHY Adolescents gain 50 per cent of their adult weight and 90 per cent of bone mass during the teenage years and need nutrients to enable this.

An analysis of 38 studies in 2011 concluded that one girl in ten is dangerously low in calcium, linked to dieting and avoiding dairy.

This increases the risk of osteoporosis in later life and Vitamin D aids absorption of calcium.

‘Fish oil supplementation is important because their brains are growing and developing and teenagers typically have a low intake of oily fish,’ says Lucy Jones.

This contains minerals and Vitamins B6 and B12, as well as iron, zinc, Vitamin C, iodine and Vitamin D.


Good for mums: Pregnant women benefits from taking folic acid

WHAT 400mcg of folic acid, 10mcg of Vitamin D. At least 250mg of DHA/EPA fish oils a day and twice that if you don’t eat oily fish weekly.

WHY ‘Folic acid is vital from pre-pregnancy to prevent nerve disorders such as spina bifida in the growing foetus,’ says Dr Catherine Hood, a specialist in women’s health at St George’s Hospital, London.

Studies prove that folic acid reduces the risk by 70 per cent.

‘All women of child-bearing age should take folic acid as so many pregnancies are unplanned,’ says Lucy.

Vitamin D is essential to give the baby a store for the first few months of life, and DHA is important for infant brain development.

‘They may also lower the risk of child allergies,’ says Dr Ruxton.


WHAT Zinc (UK RDA of zinc is 5.5mg to 9.5mg for men and 4mg to7mg for women) plus 500mg of Vitamin C if you exercise extensively.

WHY ‘Zinc is important for the immune system and there is good evidence it can help reduce the length of colds,’ says Lucy Jones.

The benefits of Vitamin C are more debatable. A 2007 research review found that 200mg or more of Vitamin C reduced duration of a cold by eight per cent in adults and 14 per cent in children.


Iron born: Floradix Liquid Iron Formula, 250ml, £7.89

WHAT Vitamin B.

WHY ‘In the elderly, appetite often decreases,’ says Lucy Jones. ‘So supplements are important.’
Watson explains: ‘There is some evidence that Vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid can help memory and cut levels of the amino acid homocysteine, high levels of which are associated with risk of heart attack and stroke.’
Watson recommends over-50s takes a low-dose supplement.

WHAT Iron supplement (UK RDA is 14.8mg for women and 8.7 mg for men).

WHY Iron is needed to make haemoglobin, which carries oxygen through the blood to all the cells in the body.

Insufficient haemoglobin means that blood cells don’t carry enough oxygen to vital organs.

‘About one woman in ten develops iron deficiency anaemia because of heavy periods,’ says nutritional therapist Judy Watson.

‘Men can be affected too, due to poor diet. If you’re feeling tired and run down, try an iron tonic – which contains a safe, low dose, for a couple of weeks.’

TRY Floradix Liquid Iron Formula, 250ml, £7.89, chemistdirect.co.uk, containing iron in yeast extract (7.5mg per 10ml – take twice daily) and B vitamins.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2401366/Who-NEEDS-vitamin-pills-As-consumer-group-dismisses-health-claims-Britains-favourite-supplements-experts-insist-DO-proven-benefits–right-ones.html#ixzz2cxvElRHD

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