Coronavirus: Dr Nighat Arif discusses benefits of vitamins
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Vitamins are sold to us as an essential part of our daily routine, especially Vitamin D, Vitamin B12 and Vitamin C. However, they can be pricey and are often unnecessary. Express.co.uk chatted to Dr Deborah Lee from Dr Fox Pharmacy to find out what vitamins you should take daily.
What vitamins should I take daily?
As a general rule, people do not need to take vitamins if they are eating a healthy diet.
Dr Lee explained: “Many news articles, advertisements and blog posts may be trying to convince you otherwise, but don’t get bamboozled into parting with your cash.
“When your body has taken the vitamins it needs from your food, any excess vitamins are simply peed down the toilet!”
There are however some medical condition or circumstances when taking vitamins are recommended.
Dr Lee has given three examples – Folic acid, Vitamin D and Iron.
Folic acid is recommended in preconception and pregnancy, according to Dr Lee.
She said: “Women are recommended to take vitamin B9 (folic acid) 400 mcg per day, for three months before they start trying for a baby and for the first three months of pregnancy.
“This is to reduce the risk of a baby being born with a neural tube defect such as spina bifida or anencephaly.”
All UK adults are currently recommended to take 10 mcg/day (400IU) of Vitamin D.
Dr Lee noted: “Public Health England issued this advice last year, in the midst of the COVID pandemic.
“This is because vitamin D deficiency is surprisingly common.
“Vitamin D plays many important roles in the body. It helps control bone growth and metabolism, but it also governs the immune system and has a vital role in the immune response.”
Iron supplements are often prescribed for patients with iron-deficient anaemia.
However, not everyone needs to take them, contrary to some advice you might have read.
Dr Lee said: “Iron supplements can have side effects and should not be used by people who are not anaemic.”
People in high-risk groups may need to take other vitamins.
Dr Lee explained: “Sometimes patients may find themselves in a group at high risk for malabsorption and hence malnutrition.
“If this happens, they will be advised to take additional vitamins.”
Examples of conditions that may cause a need for extra vitamins to include:
- Inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis, or Crohn’s Disease), coeliac disease, eating disorders, or after weight loss surgery.
- Those at risk of osteoporosis, such as postmenopausal women, may be advised to take additional calcium and vitamin D. This should be discussed with your doctor.
- People who drink a lot of alcohol may be advised to take vitamins, as they often have a poor diet, and may have liver failure.
The most important thing you can do for yourself is to eat a healthy diet, full of fresh food, including fruit and vegetables, Dr Lee said.
You don’t need to take vitamins in supplement form to be healthy.
The doctor added: “Your body is designed to absorb vitamins from food and will always absorb these nutrients better from real food, than from any tablet or capsule.
“Fresh food is full of antioxidants which are vital for good health.
“Antioxidants you get from your diet, counteract reactive oxygen species and stop them from doing cellular damage and increasing your risk of things like heart disease, strokes, cancer, diabetes and dementia. This is why you need to eat your greens!
“Sadly, just taking antioxidants as supplements is not thought to have the same effect.
“The message is – don’t waste money on expensive supplements, spend your money on good food instead.”
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