/ Food & Drink, Health

The hype over the health claims of food supplements

Array of vitamins and minerals pouring from a bottle

The UK food supplements industry is worth £385m a year. With some supplements not living up to the health claims on their packaging, we could be wasting an awful lot of money on products we don’t need.

Our recent research into food supplements revealed that a third of adults regularly take supplements. This is despite government advice recommending that most people should just eat a balanced and varied diet to get the vitamins they need.

The only people who need to take a supplement (unless it’s been prescribed by a doctor) should be women trying to conceive and in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy (folic acid), children between six months and five years (multivitamin containing vitamins A, C and D), and the over 65s (vitamin D).

Wasting money on food supplements

So why do so many people take supplements, despite not needing them? It’s because they believe they have a positive effect on their health. For example, when we asked people who take glucosamine supplements, 94% said they believed their supplement supports healthy joints and cartilage. However, this health claim has been rejected by the European Union.

Over the past five years, all health claims made on products such as food, drink and supplements have had to be submitted to the EU’s European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Of 44,000 claims made, only 248 have been approved.

Our research brought Bioglan Probiotic capsules, Bimuno Prebiotic powder and Seven Seas Cardiomax to our attention. All made unproven health claims on their packaging and websites. These related to how they help maintain digestive health such as ‘‘helps maintain digestive balance’’ or ‘‘for a healthy heart”.

Healthy joints and bones

Now, if you do want to take a supplement that’s proven to support healthy joints, take a multivitamin containing vitamins C, D, copper manganese and zinc, as all of these have joint care claims that have been authorised by the EU. A multivitamin’s a lot cheaper too – it costs between 3p and 16p a day, compared to glucosamine supplements which cost 30p to £1 a day. Over the course of a year, you could save up to £354!

We’d like to see all ambiguous and exaggerated claims completely removed from all food supplement packaging, so you can feel confident you’re getting a fair deal.

Do you think supplements are a waste of money? Or do you take supplements regularly and swear by the effect they’ve had on your health?

Comments

I will continue to eat a healthy diet, rather than paying for supplements and supporting the companies that make them.

GloriaB says:
24 August 2013

Medicine is not an exact science. With the best will in the world, we would all hope that our GPs will do the best for us. Yet, scientific research quite often is funded by the very same companies that are also in the business of making huge profits. Unless you have access to mostly closed debates, the public may be in the dark apart from anecdotal evidence. There is an issue on open access, more transparency but it is very much an ‘old boy network’ that guards itself zealously. Safeguards regarding pesticides/herbacides are also being eroded and while the soil may produce an abundance of greenery, widely available research suggests that mineral contents has plummeted. Our GPs admit that they don’t have time to keep up, that they are up to five or six years behind all the medical journals that they should be reading.

Gloria

I agree that medicine is not an exact science, and I would be surprised if anyone would disagree with this. However, I don’t think that our GPs or any other professional would promote spreading fear and uncertainty. GPs sometimes declare their areas of specialisation and it is standard practice to refer anyone with an ongoing health problem to a specialist who is likely to be up-to-date with their field. Specialists may be aware of the results of individual research studies but act on the balance of evidence from all good studies. This is the opposite of what pressure groups etc. do. They select those research papers that support their view and disregard the rest. 🙁

As far as I know, the use of pesticides and herbicides is increasing rather than decreasing. That’s what I have been told by a friend whose job is to give BASIS training to the industry.

The mineral content of plants only becomes important if we are getting insufficient of something in our diet. Any decrease is of no significance otherwise. It is wrong to assume that more is better in all cases. Perhaps the best known illustration that dietary excess is undesirable is gout. I fully support periodic review of UK nutritional recommendations. In the last few decades there has been considerable changes in lifestyle, growth of the elderly population, ethnic types, and so-on.

Gloria: “scientific research quite often is funded by the very same companies that are also in the business of making huge profits”

This also applies to the supplement industry – or “Big Herba”. The biggest difference between the supplement industry and the pharmaceutical industry, is that the pharmaceutical industry spends a much greater proportion of its revenues on research. Pharmaceuticals have to meet tests for safety and efficacy, supplements (largely thanks to industry lobbying) mainly do not. Even getting them to advertise honestly is a major challenge.

If you think that supplements are essentially harmless, and the worst risk is “too much of a good thing”, then I suggest you look up aristolchia.

Jane says:
22 August 2013

Sold through fear and ignorance. Waste of money.

I suppose there might be a placebo affect. A brisk walk is better and cheaper.

Jane says:
22 August 2013

Such a cliche! A brisk walk- I do not think so?

stephen says:
22 August 2013

I used to take garlic tablets, cod liver oil, glucosamine and vitamin c. As an experiment I stopped them all at the end of last year, as far as I can tell it has not affected my health

Michael G says:
22 August 2013

I understand that there is as yet no conclusive evidence that Glucosomane (also when combined with Chondroitin) helps improve joint performance. Perhaps this is because it has not been undertaken by the medical profession. Would someone then explain to me why Vets have been using it on animals, especially horses, with joint problems, very successfully for decades. Animals cannot be given placebos so one assumes it must work. I found out about the product from a riding friend of mine whose Vet helped her horse, so I started using it when surgeons were telling me that if I wanted to continue running for excercise I would need two knee operations. I tried Glucosomane and Chondroitin and have used it successfully for 12 years. thus avoiding any operation. I’ve tried many times to stop taking it to see what happens and my knees within two weeks start to click and buckle. Evidence or no evidence…it works for me.

Alan Henness says:
22 August 2013

See: Alternative medicine: it works in animals and children…

http://www.rationalinquiry.org.uk/it-works-in-animals.php

When I see properly-derived scientific evidence that particular medicines work – conventional or alternative – I’ll believe the claims made. Until then I’ll be sceptical. However, if other people believe a medicine does them good, then it may be they are in the right mindset to help themselves. However, where I believe unproven medicines are dangerous is when you have a potentially serious condition that is not properly treated by a proven drug, in favour of a so-called alternative. I also think it is irresponsible to inflict this on children unless it is for trivial complaints

Maria says:
23 August 2013

Michael G.

There have been several studies of the effect of glucosamine and chondroitin on osteoarthritis in humans (see PubMed and Cochrane). The best evidence is that they are no better than placebo. See, for example, ‘Glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, and the two in combination for painful knee osteoarthritis’, Clegg DO et al, New England Journal of Medicine, Feb 2006 and ‘Effect of Glucosamine Sulfate on Hip Osteoarthritis, A Randomised Trial’, Rozen et al, Annals of Internal Medicine, Feb 2008. Both of these appear to be high-quality trials.

I would presume it is used by vets on horses for the same reason it – and countless other treatments – are used by doctors on patients; because it is promoted to them by manufacturers and they hope it might work and indeed there may be some indication from some studies that it does work. But they can’t know for sure until they test in a way that eliminates all other possible reasons for any improvement. That’s the point of carrying out large RCTs and, so far as I can see, there have been none carried out on horses.

With respect to your own experience, there was a very high placebo response rate in the NEMJ study I mention above. This could, in the opinion of one author on sciencebased medicine, indicate that “there is a naturally high placebo response rate for this condition, which is known to involve fluctuations in severity over time”. According to the same article, “the amount of glucosamine in the typical supplement dose is on the order of 1/1000th or 1/10,000th of the available glucosamine in the body, most of which is produced by the body itself. Glucosamine is not an essential nutrient like a vitamin or an essential amino acid, for which small amounts make a large difference. How much difference could that small additional amount make? If glucosamine or chondroitin worked, this would be a medical first and worthy of a Nobel. It probably cannot work.”

Food for thought, at least?

Maurizio F. says:
24 August 2013

I used to take Glucosamine & Chondroitin, I stopped 2 years ago, I didn’t find any improvements in my joints when I took it or a worsening when I stopped. For me it seems is to excise. As they say, use it or loose it. Ho, and healthy diet of course. If it works for you, whether is the placebo effect or not, if you think it works, carry on and take it. We all respond differently, it seems.

I sometimes suffer from pain due to arthritis in the knee that was damaged when someone drove into my motorcycle nearly 40 years ago. I inherited a large stock of glucosamine and chondroitin products about eight years ago and gave them a fair trial. I could detect no effect.

More recently, I saw a consultant privately and was alarmed when he proposed an operation to inspect the joint. He mentioned that due to my earlier injury I have not been walking normally, but said that it was unlikely that I could do anything to remedy this. I decided to try to improve how I walk and within two weeks I had solved a problem that has been troubling me for ten years. Pills are not always the answer. 🙂

I avoid taking prescription medicines unless there is a demonstrable benefit, either relief of symptoms or demonstrated by tests. I feel the same about supplements.

Yeah, I wish it worked (osteorathritis is no fun) but sadly it doesn’t.

Guy

Sometimes I think that we should believe in remedies that don’t work. At least we might benefit from the placebo effect. 🙂

james says:
22 August 2013

I take the cheap multivit supplements from the local supermarket because I am on low income and can’t afford a balanced healthy diet, the healthy food you buy is always more expensive then the unhealthy food so us people on minimum wage don’t have much of a choice

Alan Henness says:
22 August 2013

james: Healthy food can be cheap – I suspect you may well be getting enough from the food you eat – perhaps ask your GP or a Dietitian? (Not a nutritionist!)

Jane says:
22 August 2013

Come on basic and simple food is not expensive! You’re not buying the right lines!

Nutritionists? I thought these were folk who approached the subject scientifically.

There are also Nutritional Therapists who seem to be rather more towards the complementary side of things.

Just more confusion for the general public.

Maria says:
22 August 2013

Dieticians are the folk who approach the subject scientifically. ‘Dietician’ is a protected job title, ‘nutritionist’ is not. Need I say more?

Jane says:
22 August 2013

Nutritionists are one huge con! They try to sound sciencey but they just talk a load of gobbledygook! A dietician is the one- proper degree and state registered.

Perhaps if one is going to quote NHS guidelines one should do it fully :
” people aged 65 years and over and people not exposed to much sun should also take a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms (0.01mg) of vitamin D ”

I looked at Vitamin D as it is well-known that the US guidelines are twice as high as the UK guidelines. This leads one to suspect that either Americans are a different species or that one nation has it wrong.

The vast majority of Canadians live south of the latitude of London [UK] where they are more likely to have useful sunshine for the body to make its own Vitamnin D:
“Adults over the age of fifty
Health Canada recommends that, in addition to following Canada’s Food Guide, everyone over the age of 50 should take a daily vitamin D supplement of 400 IU.”

” So why do so many people take supplements, despite not needing them?”

I have no doubt there are rogue and useless products out there but Which? seems happy to go from the specific to a general comment giving medical advice. Given nations cannot agree on acceptable limits for daily upper limits, or the necessity for supplements, it seems the rubbishing of supplements in a generalised form by Which? in this Conversation is indefensible.

As I see it, Which? is simply alerting us to the findings of EFSA and supporting UK government guidelines – definitely not giving medical advice.

Vitamin D is particularly difficult to issue recommendations for because exposure to sunlight is a major factor. Lifestyle, time of year, skin colour and even amount of clothing worn are all factors. There is evidence that the risk of taking excess vitamin D may have been overstated.

” So why do so many people take supplements, despite not needing them?”

wavechange. I repeat the phrase used. We know that the US and Canada have different higher guidelines for Vitamin D and perhaps other trace elements. Repeating the current UK guidelines is not actually a proof that what is recommended is correct.

We know that in 2012 the acceptable upper daily limit for Vitamin D was actually doubled by EFSA.
So there we have it the European guidelines pre-2012 were 100% wrong/different. So what faith that they are now correct given the North American figures? I include a link to a very lengthy article which conveys the difficulties and guesswork behind coming up with safe Upper limits and also the amount of Vitamin D in the blood stream.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK56058/

Using another article we can see the seasonal effects in Estonia and how it differs from its neighbours where fortified dairy products seem to make a substantial difference.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK56058/

Do not think I am in favour of additional this that and the other but scientifically speaking the evidence seems to be adding up that in Northern climates and with current lifestyles, and particular ethnic groups we are generally suffering a Vitamin D shortage. Last summer my wife and I tested for Vitamin D levels and despite some weeks on and around the Equator in January and February neither of us reached the 50nmol/l recommendation and my wife was sub 40nmol/l.

So there you have it – we eat healthily and spend some time in the garden and outside in the Tropics but reach a low level. Supplements would seem to be in order!

Dieseltaylor

My guess is that most people take supplements because of marketing, peer pressure and belief that they are of benefit, thanks to the placebo effect, or out of desperations because they are suffering and prepared to try anything that might help.

Some people are genuinely deficient in vitamins, minerals, etc. because of medical conditions or because their diet is not good (or not as good as they think it is). The intelligent solution is to confirm that a deficiency exists – as you have done.

Government guidelines on nutrition vary between countries and recommendations are likely to change over time, as our knowledge and understanding grows.

I am disappointed that the NHS does not do more routine testing. For example, I believe that those who are 60+ should have their blood glucose tested annually, to pick up those who may be at risk of developing diabetes. Testing vitamin D would be my next priority.

Until we have testing, my philosophy is to avoid all drugs and supplements unless recommended by my GP.

I support Which? here. What has not been mentioned is that supplement production and sales is a vast industry. The companies would go bankrupt if everyone had the intelligence to find out whether they suffer from deficiency.

American regulations are often influenced by industry lobbying, but in any case the recommended dose of a vitamin being double in one place over another is not actually that big a difference, at least not when you compare it with the immense doses recommended by vitamin megadose quacks.

My Grandmother took cod liver oil for her whole life as she thought it would be good for her joints, but it did her no good. She is crippled with arthritis.

Which? Why are you suggesting we should take multi vitamins for our joints? Are you suggesting that if the general population does not, their joints will suffer? Is that what the EU say?
I’m afraid I don’t like taking pills unless they are essential – blood pressure makes sense, not so sure about statins. But you should otherwise remain basically healthy if you eat a balanced diet – fruit, vegetables, small amounts of meat and dairy, are not expensive for a good quality diet.
Most commercial supplements seem designed to extract money from your pocket to feed the profits of the retailers and manufacturers. You should be free to buy them if they do you no harm, and if any claims made for them are proven. That is your free choice. But if you are conned by unsubstantiated, exagerated or untrue claims then the product should be banned and the retailer and producer penalised – just like we do the banks when they take your money under false pretences.

hi Malcolm R

The article wasn’t in support of supplements in general, though of course there are valid reasons why some people might need to take them. We didn’t mean to imply that people should take a multivitamin, only that the benefit promoted on Glucosamine supplements is due to the vitamin C in the supplement and so if you wanted to take a supplement, the same benefit would be gained by taking a multivitamin or a vitamin C supplement.
Of course the best way to get your vitamins and minerals is to follow a healthy, balanced diet which will provide the nutrition you need.

thanks
Shefalee

Shefalee

Thanks for the clarification. I read the information in the same way that Malcolm did.

It would be good to have an article giving a balanced view of the benefits and risks of taking supplements at the dosages generally available without prescription. I have a friend who has recently had an operation to treat calcification of the spine. I now wonder if the vitamin D supplement he uses may have exacerbated the problem.

http://www.mdguidelines.com/disc-calcification

Rest assured that the medical profession do not appear to have rumbled your fear. Perhaps you could ascertain what dose he is/was taking as it would be of interest to me : )

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diffuse_idiopathic_skeletal_hyperostosis
BTW whilst investigating on your point I found this link to a highly unpleasant drug that was deemed fit to market by the authorities.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Etretinate

Thanks Dieseltaylor. I will try to remember to report back when my friend gets back from holiday.

My cautious attitude about supplements stems from a much greater concern about prescription medicines. My mother was prescribed thalidomide but thankfully never took the prescription to the pharmacy. I have seen so many cases of elderly people fed with a variety of pills with little apparent thought about drug interactions and other problems. While I appreciate that there can be very good reasons for individuals taking supplements, I would like to see more people being tested for deficiency and professional advice rather than self-medication.

I would like to see more education about eating a good diet. My solution is not to worry about what I eat each meal or each day, but think about what food I buy each week. As you have pointed out, the winter months will result in a decreased vitamin D intake, so I increase my consumption of oily fish. I accept that there are those who eat a good diet can sometimes be deficient in certain vitamins and minerals.

I’m getting my friends confused. 🙁 The one who had the operation has told me that he does not take vitamin D or any supplements, and that he has now recovered well from the operation. He runs a large garden and an allotment, and I am often given gifts of surplus fruit and veg that is probably rather fresher than what I buy.

L2, Vitamin D is necessary for the absorption of calcium from the gut. By doing so it helps to maintain healthy bones. Without vitamin D children will develop rickets and adults osteomalacia both of which involve softening of bone. It does not prevent the joints from developing osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. The vitamin is produced mainly by the action of sunlight on the skin but the efficiency of this falls off with increasing age, hence the recommendation to take a 10microgram tablet for folk over 65. Now that vitamin D levels can be measured by GPs a surprising amount of deficiency is being uncovered although frank rickets and osteomalacia are rare. With the present state of knowledge it appears that there is some uncertainty regarding what should be regarded as the lower limit of normality for the level in the blood ie at what level vitamin D deficiency begins. With regard osteoarthritis, the best way to avoid it in weight bearing joints ie hips and knees is to avoid wearing the joints out by exposing them to too much weight ie avoid obesity. Rheumatoid arthritis, which affects mainly the small joints of hands and feet, is a different problem. Early diagnosis is important as early drug treatment via a rheumatologist can prevent disease progression.

This is all entirely plausible. We live longer and spend less time outdoors than we were evolved to do. And 10µg is not much; do you know what this is as a proportion of the total requirement, i.e. what percentage of vitamin D is synthesised rather than supplemented at this level?

It depends if the ingredients in the vitamins are from items that are usually in the human food chain for a starters. Lots of them have synthetic ingredients that our bodies don’t know how to process. With the food versus supplements debate, unfortunately produce in the supermarkets travel for up to 40 days before they reach your plate in Australia (UK similar?) during which time they are stored in a variety of cool rooms etc. By the time they hit your plate they have virtually no nutrients left. People think they are eating well because they eat lots of fruit and veg from the supermarket but unless you are buying organic locally grown produce chances are your getting minimal dietary value.

Mark says:
23 August 2013

It is interesting that the EU has rejected a claim for glucosamine and joint health. If you have faith in the EU as clearly Which? does then consumers would be right to believe that they are being misled by food supplement manufacturers. Why then does glucosamine get the thumbs up for a medicines licence granted by MHRA (PL19053/0041) for ‘relief of symptoms in mild to moderate osteoarthritis of the knee’?

There are two issues here. First, while we want to support our farmers, ongoing research suggests that the soil is depleted to such an extent that the Government guidelines are unfortunately irrelevant. That, plus the power of big pharma suggests that we should eat more organic, not for the vitamins but for the lack of pesticides. When working in an area of France which prohibits pesticides/GM I never take vitamins; here, I must and this is not serendipity – it’s been verified by various tests to determine precisely what I need.

If the soil is depleted, plants will not grow well. It’s not depleted of vitamins.

So if I were to show you the evidence that organic crops are nutritionally no better than norms, crops, and often worse (lower levels of trace elements and vitamins, for example), how would that change your practice?

Rosalind says:
23 August 2013

I was told by several orthopaedic surgeons to take glucosamine and choindroitin, as I have traumatic arthritis in my ankle from an old sports injury and had to have my ankle replaced. I find that if I don’t take it for a couple of days, I definitely feel less supple and stiffer. Also, I wouldn’t take the advice of only one regulatory body, in this case the EFSA, as other regulatory bodies differ widely in what they conclude. In the US, for example, the FDA banned Cox 2 Inhibitors such as Vioxx as too unhealthy, but the EFSA did not. I’m not saying Vioxx is healthy or unhealthy, but I am saying professional opinions differ. Same thing with glucosamine and chondroitin, although I have yet to check what the FDA thinks about these two.

Mark says:
23 August 2013

@ Maria

Just two examples below which you might find of interset. It does not take a large amount to act at the transcriptional level and indeed a small amount can have a big effect.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16821268
CONCLUSION: GLN and CS in combination suppress synthesis and expression of genes encoding inflammatory mediators and proteolytic enzymes while upregulating TIMP-3. This provides a plausible mechanism for the purported mild antiinflammatory and chondroprotective properties of GLN and CS.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16334942

CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE:
GLN and CS, at concentrations that are within the range measured in synovial fluid and blood after oral administration, may regulate expression of matrix degrading enzymes and their inhibitors at the transcriptional level, providing a plausible mechanism for their purported chondroprotective properties.

Maria says:
24 August 2013

Thanks, Mark. It is truly a shame that the best evidence indicates that it doesn’t have a significantly beneficial effect on osteopathy.

Mark says:
24 August 2013

Maria, ‘best evidence’ is subjective and can, indeed should, be debated. Even in your cited Clegg 2006 the conclusions included: ‘Exploratory analyses suggest that the combination of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate may be effective in the subgroup of patients with moderate-to-severe knee pain.’

I suggest you might find the open access correspondence on current status and consensus for research in this area very useful: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1756-0500/6/115
It is truly a shame that Which? did not get expert advice before they published.

Did you really mean ‘osteopathy’?!

” Some patients, however, are convinced that these preparations are beneficial, which might be because of the natural course of osteoarthritis, regression to the mean, or the placebo effect.”
From the meta-analysis.

I was struck by the thought that it seems nobody was recruited to the trials simple to be tested at the beginning and end to see if their pain levels were different. Essentially to monitor for the placebo effect or whether simply being part of a trial had benefits.

One wonders if the placebo patients had received injections at the appropriate area whether there scores would have been markedly different. The mind is much more impressed with a painful placebo I understand.

Maria says:
25 August 2013

Mark

What I mean by ‘best evidence’ is evidence from the highest quality trials that have been carried out to date.

The 2006 trial you quote from studied 1583 patients, who were randomised into five treatment groups of glucosamine, chondroitin, glucosamine and chondroitin together, an NSAID or a placebo. None of the treatments worked significantly better than placebo until they separated the data from each of the five groups into two subgroups of those with mild-to-moderate pain and moderate-to-severe pain. On doing this they found just one subgroup out of the ten showing significance. This, as you point out, was the group with moderate-to-severe pain that took both glucosamine and chondroitin.

This gives us two possibilities: either a treatment that failed to show benefit for mild to moderate pain does work for more severe pain, which would be rather curious, if true. The other possibility is that it is a false positive. One out of ten subgroups could well be falsely positive just by chance. The trial’s authors pointed out that their study was not designed to differentiate between those subgroups, so no clinical recommendations could be made on the basis of this finding.

Finally, no, I meant ‘osteoarthritis’ not ‘osteopathy’, of course. Thanks for pointing it out.

I absolutely support an aimed article by Which? on the highly expensive and dubious supplement and diet markets however this is not what we get. A shotgun 31 line “Conversation” piece with throwaway lines such as ” So why do so many people take supplements, despite not needing them?” whilst only giving a partial list of the categories of people who should take them. A brief calculation shows the Government recommendation categories covers a minimum one in five of the population.

If we took the Canadian guidelines on Vitamin D as sensible then over a third of the population would be taking supplements.
” So why do so many people take supplements, despite not needing them?”

Indeed. I agree with wavechange that a testing regime would be a very useful aid in seeing what the real situation is and this will help people make sense of a deliberately confused market.

If Which? wishes to highlight specific products as rip-offs it should but also provide decent caveats and links so that the message is crystal clear that some supplements are recommended.

Dieseltaylor

We agree on the value of testing, but unless there is evidence that there is a benefit in adopting the Canadian guidelines, I see no reason for doing so. Our bodies have evolved to cope with a very varied diet and adding any drug or supplement could potentially cause problems that medical science is not yet aware of. Our bodies are very complex in terms of biochemistry, and there is a risk of upsetting natural balance by consuming biochemically active substances.

A substantial part of the population is taking statins to decrease the amount of cholesterol in their blood. Many believe that these drugs should be used only where the benefit very clearly outweighs the risks.

Articles in Which? magazine and the Conversations alert us to possible problems and help us understand where problems may arise. Which? does not have the resources to explore every controversial issue in depth. The Conversation on nutritional therapists opened my eyes to the huge supplement industry and how science is misused to support the arguments of those who benefit financially.

Canada has a significantly different climate due to the presence off our shores of the Gulf Stream. It’s also not clear if we’re talking here about 10micrograms vs 20 being 1% of that naturally synthesised or 10%. MOAR FACTS PLZ KTHXBAI

Not quite sure of the end of your message …….. in any event the main point is that the kick-in for the recommendation is aged over 50.

The Gulf Stream is a red herring as we are talking really about sunshine and there is no doubt that a dry Continental climate will give a lot more functional UVB sunshine hours than the UK has. I may cover my goolies here and make an exception for Newfoundland and Labrador but that is a tiny population.

As a guide I found this on the Web – take Chicago as a proxy for Toronto:
“It’s easier to express the sunshine hours as a percentage (of 4380, half of all the hours in a year). So you get this:
Edinburg – 30.1%
Cork – 31.7%
London – 34.1%
Paris – 38.8%
Chicago – 60.1%
New York – 61.3%
San Antonio – 62.1%
Los Angeles – 77.1%”

About time. The supplement industry has been getting away with misleading claims for as long as I can remember. Even now, US websites will still be carrying essentially unregulated claims for these products, entirely due to industry lobbying. I support a level playing field for health claims: no robust evidence, no advert, no exceptions.

The majority of supplements taken in the UK enrich the vendor, the purchaser’s urine, and pretty much nothing else. A balanced diet contains all you need (it could not be any other way, evolution does not favour those who require industrial processes in order to survive to the period when those industrial processes can be set up). The entire industry depends on its customers not understanding the process of homeostasis.

More worryingly, the places and people who promote supplements also often promote “woo” – fraudulent medical claims such as homeopathy, reiki and the like. The world of supplements, complementary and alternative medicine (SCAM) is positioned as a benign alternative to profit-hungry “big pharma”, but in reality is highly lucrative, spends vastly more on marketing than r&d (much more so than the pharmaceutical industry) and leads its customers down the rabbit hole of credulous acceptance of sciences-sounding nonsense.

In the absence of any medically diagnosed deficiency, routine supplementation provides no benefit to offset any potential harm.

Jane says:
24 August 2013

Agree with most of this but people are taken in so so easily by alternative woo and fear of the latest deficiency!! Now what can the normal diet be lacking in next week I wonder-vitamin 16b or the latest wonder fruit? It goes on ad nauseum and unabated!