Should I be taking vitamin supplements?

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  • Following government reports that overdoing it on vitamins may not be good for us, sports and nutrition specialist Joanna Hall investigates

    Earlier this year the department of health warned the millions of us who take vitamin supplements that excessive amounts of some vitamins may actually be causing more harm than good.

    What did the research show?

    We may think that supplements will help to improve our immunity, boost our energy and perhaps prolong our lives, but research by Copenhagen University suggests that excess supplementing may, in the long term, have the opposite effect. Vitamin A, for instance, was linked to a 16 per cent increase in the risk in premature death, beta carotene to a 7 per cent rise, and vitamin E to an increase of 4 per cent.

    What should I do?

    Most vitamins and minerals are safe if they are taken in amounts that don’t exceed recommendation limits. The research seemed to conclude that problems occur when vitamins are taken in extremely high doses. However, the first step to improving one’s health, well-being and energy should be eating a healthy diet. Fruits, vegetables, grains, pulses, meat and fish contain all the vitamins and minerals that are needed to maintain a healthy body.

    Vegetarians and vegans might need to top up with vitamins but, for the most of people, falling back on supplements can lull you into feeling infallible to the consequences of a poor diet and inadequate exercise. Yes, feel free to take a supplement, but not before you’ve filled up your fruit and vegetable bowl.

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