Lots of people take supplements to boost energy or keep joints healthy. But our investigation found that there’s a chance that they might not always have the health benefits you’d expect.
When we looked into the health claims on the packaging of certain supplements we found that the ‘key ingredient’ might not deliver on the health benefit you might gather from reading the label.
In fact, we found that a multivitamin you could pick up in any supermarket for a lower price could often do just as much good as a supplement designed for specific complaints.
Do you check the label?
Many people take supplements – and in our survey of 3,422 Which? members who do, cod liver oil and other fish oils were the most commonly used, with six out of ten of you taking them.
However, our investigation found that no special health claims can be made about cod liver oil at all – this might be surprising, especially as half of the people we surveyed think that it helps to support joints and cartilage.
In fact, the active ingredient in the tablet that’s contributing to your joint health is actually vitamin D – which is naturally present in cod liver oil, but can also be found in other cheaper multivitamins.
It was much the same story with co-enzyme Q10, taken by one in ten of those we surveyed. This is often promoted as an energy supplement, but this is often down to B vitamins in the tablets rather than the co-enzyme Q10 itself.
You’d have to squint to find out the vitamin ingredients on the back of the label of some supplements, as they aren’t always listed at the front. But it’s important to check and see exactly what it is that you’re taking.
Bad reactions to supplements
Some of you told us about problems you’ve had after taking supplements, like skin irritation after taking vitamin B6, and a laxative effect possibly caused by magnesium in a supplement.
But we found that there is no systematic way of recording these side effects and finding out how common they are. With no official reporting system that catalogues side effects or bad reactions to vitamins, unlike medicines or herbal supplements, it’s difficult to know what your risks are from taking these products.
So do you take vitamins and/or supplements, and if so, do you find them beneficial? And have you experienced a bad reaction to a supplement before?