/ Food & Drink, Health

Your view: do you feel the need for food supplements?

Vitamin pills exploding

You had a lot to say about our research which concluded that people are wasting money on unnecessary food supplements. Do you buy into food supplements?

A third of adults regularly take supplements, despite government advice recommending that most people should just eat a balanced and varied diet. Wavechange made his opinion clear:

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

James takes multivitamins:

‘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 than the unhealthy food, so us people on minimum wage don’t have much of a choice.’

However, Alan Henness thinks James should rely more on the food he eats:

‘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?’

Moving away from food supplements

Stephen has since moved away from food supplements:

‘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.’

L2 is similarly sceptical:

‘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.’

Does gulcosamine work?

A debate about glucosamine soon took hold. In our research, 94% of people who took this said they thought it supported healthy joints. Even though this health claim has been rejected by the European Union, commenter Michael G feels it helps him:

‘I tried glucosamine 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.’

Rosalind also takes glucosamine and can apparently feel its effects:

‘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.’

However, Maurizio had a different experience:

‘I used to take glucosamine & chondroitin, I stopped two years ago, I didn’t find any improvements in my joints when I took it or a worsening when I stopped. 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.’

Malcolm M lays it on the line for glucosamine and other unproven supplements:

‘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.’

Don’t believe the hype

Guy Chapman thinks it’s about time the spotlight was on the supplement industry:

‘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.’

John Ward, who gets our Comment of the Week, thinks Brits need better health education:

‘It seems to me that there is a powerful case for much better health education on diet and well-being to combat the influence of commercial promotion. I am concerned that too many people who can ill afford, or might be at risk from, unprescribed supplementation do not realise how much they could do to help themselves without synthetic preparations.’

So, what do you think about the comments above? Do you buy into food supplements or are you sceptical of their efficacy?


I do currently use Vitamin D3 and Vitamin C. The C is apparently useful for reducing the incidence of gout attacks. The D3 is taken in an attempt to reach [ the low] British standard for D3 in the blood. I hope later this week to report on the difference/effect since we started taking them last July after having the specific blood test taken; and failed.

These excerpts of views stated in the original thread perhaps does not provide a full picture of the arguments and data offered which is a shame.

However during that thread I think there was a consensus that some supplements are probably hogwash and that others, particularly those recommended by the Government are sensible. One thing not resolved was why the UK recommendations are always lower than other countries!

I had just come to the conclusion that some supplementation we do not really think about such as iodised salt and fluorided water so to an extent we all take supplements. And talking of chemicals we unwittingly imbibe I wonder at the lack of regulatory hoops that drinks do not go through despite being bad for your health.

I am curious that if sodas/pop/cokes were described as supplementing normal diet whether they would be subject to more scrutiny than they are. It seems very much that they add actually nil value to diet and on balance are harmful which begs the question why what has become established as a “drink” has no standards to cross.


This article below talks of water fluoridation being forced upon a population to lower dental requirements. Consider the consumption of soft drinks and effects on teeth and then wonder if perhaps we are intent on treating effects rather than causes.


Apparently the average person drinks 107 litres per annum of carbonated water up 7 litres over 7 years and I would be surprised if this were not an inverse relationship to milk consumption.

Interesting reading especially taken in context with:

“One of the most consistent and powerful findings is the link between soft drink intake and increased energy consumption. Fully 10 of 12 cross-sectional studies, 5 of 5 longitudinal studies, and all 4 of the long-term experimental studies examined showed that energy intake rises when soft drink consumption increases. The effect sizes for these studies, respectively, were 0.13, 0.24, and 0.30.

The available literature also supports the observation that people do not adequately compensate for the added energy they consume in soft drinks with their intake of other foods and consequently increase their intake of sugar and total energy. ………”

Anyway in the next few days the before and after of high dose Vitamin D3 over 13 months.



You have been tested to see if you require additional vitamin D, which is a sensible approach.

I do not understand the basis of the assumption that because some other countries recommend a different daily intake of certain vitamins that they are right and the UK recommendations are wrong.

If drinking soft drinks is discouraging us from drinking milk or decreasing our consumption of wholesome food, then perhaps that is the problem that we should address and not by taking vitamins to compensate.


My Vitamin D3 results are in

July 2012 49.3 nmol/L
August 2013 89.3 nmol/L

So taking 5000iu’s almost daily for a year has moved me to borderline inadequate to adequate. Now the interesting thing here is looking at this research below the geometric mean for the participants was 72.9 nmol/L in September without supplements but falling to what looks like
sub 30 nmol/L in February.
“Vitamin D status has a linear association with seasonal infections and lung function in British adults ”

My suspicion is that taking daily high iu levels of vitamin D supplement in the summer, even an English one , is perhaps redundant and that perhaps the point is to take them commencing the autumn until say March. Given the levels I take perhaps less than daily. However when we receive my wife’s results we will arrange different regimes and have further tests at the beginning of January.

Just to note that the British recommendations for the over 65’s does not mention seasonal effects whatsoever.
“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 “


Wife’s results in:
July 2012 46.8
Aug 2013 87.3

SO we will give it a rest until the end of sSeptember and I will go to one 5000IU per week and she will go to two per week and we will re-test the first week of January.


It is not just the daily intake that can differ. What counts as an essential nutrient in one country may not be recognised as such in another.


Perhaps we should consider foods with added vitamins and minerals. Cornflakes are an early example. The processing removes vitamins that are naturally present in the grain, and these are added after the cooking process. Addition of vitamins is used to help market the product, though I see it as a way to compensate for the loss of nutritional value caused by processing.

Another example is margarine. This was introduced in the UK because of the shortage of butter during the second World War. Vitamins A and D were added because it was recognised that butter was an important dietary source of these vitamins. In the UK it is not mandatory to include these vitamins in the spreads that have largely replaced margarine, but these blends of fats, water and emulsifiers often contain various vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients including omega 3 fatty acids.

Processed food is an important part of our diets and I believe that there is a case for adding vitamins etc. to compensate for loss of nutritional value during production. I am certainly NOT supporting processed foods (and believe that we should cut down consumption of it) but we must acknowledge that it is a major component of most people’s diets in the UK.


According to my 1950 copy of Law’s Grocer’s Manual the advent of margarine , invented 1869/70, was largely due to WW1 and consequent shortages. : )

I am in complete agreement about the downsides of processed foods. I also have doubts about the usability of Vitamins and additives added to these foods. I can make a bold claim of adding but what is really available at the end of the processing? And for some items they are cooked again.

The food in Maidstone Hospital, Kent is prepared in South Wales. One has to wonder. I looked at Wiltshire Foods to see some information on Vitamins not a whisker but at least they do break down the fats proteins etc.

This looks a very interesting read: Maximizing the Nutritional Value of Fruits & Vegetables

This is old [1968] but very interesting looking at it from a growers angle: