Lowdown on the vitamins that work and which ones are right for you | The Sun

VITAMIN and mineral supplements are big business.

Around 20million of us are thought to use them, with the number rising rapidly as people look for ways to boost their health.

Just this week a new study from the University of Reading found that taking vitamin B6 could reduce feelings of anxiety and depression.

But is popping pills really ­necessary for good health?

Sun on Sunday Health spoke to leading independent pharmacist and clinician Michael Sam-York, who says: “If you are relatively fit and healthy, you do not need any supplements.

“But if you are not getting your five a day, if you have a hectic lifestyle or have a restrictive diet like veganism, then your body may not be getting what it needs. Taking a supplement may be the quick fix you need.”

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Here is his guide…

WHAT SHOULD WE TAKE?

CERTAIN groups are advised to take supplements.

Pregnant women should take folic acid to reduce the risk of spina bifida in babies.

Vitamin D is the supplement most often prescribed by GPs.

Even though our bodies make vitamin D from sunlight, the NHS recommends everyone should consider taking a supplement during autumn and winter and children aged one to four all year round.

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It is vital for keeping bones, teeth and muscles healthy.

For accuracy, you can pay for a blood test to see how much you need. These are readily available online and are inexpensive.

If you’re not sure I’d recommend going for 1000iu (international units) or 25micrograms daily.

That should be enough to make sure you are getting your daily quota.

IS BUYING ONLINE SAFE?

YES, it is safe — but ALWAYS buy from a registered ­pharmacy.

If you go to a website, scroll to the base of the page where you should see a badge with a registration number.

You can check that at pharmacyregulation.org.

It will tell you whether this is a reputable business.

Avoid eBay as many sellers are not verified. Amazon can be good — but again, check the seller.

When you get your delivery, make sure it has the XE or Kite mark and that the bottle is sealed. If you are in any doubt, don’t use it.

It is always best to be cautious where your health is concerned.

Men’s top 10

THESE are the best nutrients for men and how they can help:

  • Omega-3: For a healthy brain and joints
  • Vitamin D: Aids healthy bones, teeth and muscles
  • B12: For energy levels
  • Zinc: To boost sex life
  • Turmeric: Anti-inflammatory
  • Maca root: A herb that can boost a man’s fertility, energy levels and reduce stress
  • Ginseng: Boosts energy levels
  • Magnesium: Healthy heart and cholesterol levels
  • Vitamin C: Muscle growth and immunity
  • Thiamine: Helps energy levels and libido

IS THERE SCIENTIFIC PROOF THAT THEY WORK?

THERE is limited evidence that most supplements and vitamins work, and most of it is anecdotal so beware of the ­placebo effect.

There is no harm in giving them a go but be honest with yourself about what happens when you do.

If you don’t notice a physical difference or improvement in symptoms, then don’t carry on taking it.

There is no point in ­wasting your money. Try it, but don’t expect miracles.

SHOULD I STICK TO THE RECOMMENDED DAILY AMOUNT?

YES, it is there for a reason. Generally, they will not do you any harm if you take too much, as the body will excrete any excess. You basically end up with very expensive urine.

But some do have side-effects. While rare, taking too much ­vitamin A, D, B6, niacin or E can lead to potentially harmful outcomes.

By law, the packaging must state if there are side- effects from taking too much.

Some people should totally avoid supplements.

Pregnant women, for example, shouldn’t take vitamin A as it can have an adverse effect on the baby.

Any reputable supplier will say on the label who can and can’t have it.

CAN ANY SUPPLEMENT AID MY POOR SLEEP?

CAMOMILE, vitamin B6, lemon balm and magnesium have all been reported to help.

Many CBD supplements also claim to help you sleep but make sure you buy a reputable brand from a ­reputable supplier.

Women’s top 10

THESE are the best nutrients for women, and their benefits:

  • Vitamin D: For healthy bones, teeth and muscles
  • Omega-3: Boosts brain function
  • Folic acid: For pregnant women, this reduces the risk of neural tube defects in babies
  • Iron: One in four of us is thought to be low in iron. Can help with anaemia and heavy period sufferers
  • Zinc: Healthy blood flow, wound-healing and good for eyesight
  • Magnesium: For heart health, to regulate blood sugar and boost low mood
  • B12: For extreme tiredness and boosting energy
  • Turmeric: A great anti-inflammatory. Available as a supplement or just add the spice to food
  • Evening primrose oil: Eases menopause symptoms
  • Vitamin B6: Aids sleep

B12 IS NOW BEING OFFERED IN INJECTION FORM TO AID WEIGHT LOSS. DOES IT WORK?

IT is said to boost energy, ­metabolism and help you shed unwanted pounds.

If you are considering using it, I would recommend speaking to your GP first and having a blood test to check your levels.

If your levels are truly low, it can be prescribed by a doctor to boost energy.

This often happens if a patient is very run down.

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Tried and tested

THE average man needs 55g and a woman needs 45g a day of protein for growth and tissue repair.

That is about two portions of meat, fish, nuts or tofu.

High-quality proteins contain all of the essential amino acids and are rich in branched-chain amino acids called BCAAs. And now protein powders, drinks and bars are big business.

Jane Atkinson looks at the drinks that pack a punch.

WHEY POWDER: MYPROTEIN and Vimto have joined together again to produce two limited edition drinks.

I tried Myprotein Limited Edition Vimto Clear Whey Isolate Orange, Strawberry And Lime.

Whey is derived from milk and the isolate bit means that it has undergone a process to give it more protein with less carbohydrate and fat per serving.

You mix it with water but it took a while to blend and have no lumps.

The taste is amazing if you like super-sweet drinks – like crushed Love Hearts. However, it is very expensive.

89kcal, 20g of protein, 1.8 per cent sugar and less than 0.5 per cent fat per 26/400ml serving. (£28.99 for 520g, myprotein.com)

PLANT PROTEIN: BODYHERO has just launched its second plant-based protein milkshake flavour – Madagascan Vanilla.

Made from premium European pea protein isolated from yellow split peas, plus 5g of gut-healthy prebiotic fibre from chicory root (providing 17 per cent of your daily fibre allowance in one serving) it helps you stay fuller for longer.

This comes in a handy 330ml recyclable carton and is Vegan Society-approved. It has no dairy, gluten, wheat, artificial flavouring or colouring.

The good news is that the drink is 137kcal, 20.4g protein, 1.7 per cent sugar and 0.7g of fat per 300ml serving.

The bad news is that unless you get it straight from the fridge it tastes a bit chalky and watery. (£2.95 for a 330ml carton, bodyhero.com)

READY-MADE DRINK: THIS is described as the UK’s first clear whey isolate protein drink.

Upbeat’s Protein Energy is available in a refreshing tropical flavour, with 15g of protein, 180mg of caffeine and 4000mg of BCAA per 500ml for focus and energy.

It removes the faff of carrying a bulky protein shaker and adding protein powder to water.

It went on sale this month and tastes just like a flat Lilt drink.

I loved it. Sometimes I think protein stuff can have a very dodgy flavour. This didn’t.

For instant access to essential hydration, body-boosting protein and focused energy, this sugar-free, lactose-free drink is great.

I felt I could concentrate more after imbibing it. Will buy again. (RRP £1.99, upbeatdrinks.com)

Ask Dr Jeff

Q) I’M a 30-year-old man and work nine to five in a call centre.

I don’t have children and my job is fairly stress-free so I don’t understand why I feel tired all the time. I sleep well every night but I always feel exhausted. What’s causing this?

Stephen Holmes, Manchester

A) Tiredness is one of the most common reasons people see their GP.

The biggest challenge we face is determining what is medical, what is psychological, and what is life-induced.

 In terms of lifestyle factors, it is always worth ­looking at diet, exercise and sleep.

Too little or too much of any of these can affect your energy, and while work hours may not be excessive or appear stressful, it is also important to make sure you take time for yourself, to self-reflect and let your mind wander.

If, as in your case, you have excluded other causes, the next thing would be to speak to a doctor to look for medical causes of tiredness.

These are wide ranging, so any other symptoms you have would be important to mention.

For example, a decline in sexual desire may mean a drop in testosterone levels, or feeling short of breath on activity might point to anaemia.

Q) I’M a woman aged over 50 and really enjoy gardening but for the first time in my life I think I have hayfever.

My eyes are itchy and streaming all of the time and I also keep sneezing and getting an irritating cough. I also seem to have developed an allergy to grass and leaves because if they touch my bare skin then it leaves me with raised red marks which really itch and burn.

What can I buy from the chemist to help with this? I don’t want to bother my GP as I know how busy they are.

Leslie Froom, Taunton, Somerset

A) Hayfever is extremely common. We tend to think of runny eyes and nose, sneezing and sometimes a rash, but it can also cause aches and pains, fatigue, breathing problems and even flu-like symptoms.

For some people, hayfever can be so severe it stops them going to school or work.

Pharmacists are great sources of knowledge for hayfever treatments and can provide over-the-counter topical drops for the eyes, sprays for the nose and oral antihistamine tablets.

If after taking your pharmacist’s advice you are still struggling, doctors can prescribe a strong antihistamine called fexofenadine.

In addition, there are also prescribed steroid nasal sprays, antihistamine eye drops, inhalers, and even oral steroid tablets for people who are really struggling.

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