Let's cut the c**p, here's how to really choose the right supplement for you!
Posted by PR Neom, Jun 07, 2021
Have you had your multivitamin today? Have you given the kids theirs? What about your special 'women's' supplement? And don't forget to re-order your magnesium to help you sleep.
Yep, supplements require a shelf all to themselves, especially now that we're all becoming fluent in the language of vitamins and minerals. A far cry from the days when it was only vitamin C, cod liver oil and basic multivits to choose from. Now there are entire departments dedicated to the various blends, all designed to boost your mood, insides and fill in any gaps that you're missing from your diet.
It also throws up a plethora of questions - how do you know what's good and what's not? Can you OD on vitamins and minerals? Do some cancel others out? And do you really, honestly need them or is it just another fad come marketing ploy from the new wellbeing warriors?
Shabir Daya, Pharmacist and Co-Founder of victoriahealth.com recently described them as an insurance policy. We can try our best to get everything from food but when we're eating oranges that were picked seven days ago (opposed to fresh off the tree), they'll only have a quarter of the vitamin C they started off with. Therefore by adding vitamins and minerals into your diet, you've got the satisfaction and knowledge you are feeding your body the good stuff. And let's not forget that your body only absorbs about half of the nutrients you ingest anyway as the rest gets excreted.
Hungry to know more? We spoke to Richard Turnbull, Founder of the latest health supplements to market - The Restored about the do's and don'ts of adding these extras into your life...
How do you know if you need a supplement?
Some supplements, such as a complete multivitamin are beneficial for everyone because we all need more than 20 vitamins and minerals each day for good health and modern living makes it hard to get all of those from food alone. Minerals are more robust than vitamins and are easier to get from food. Vitamins are delicate and easily destroyed in farming, food storage and cooking processes. That's why taking a daily multivitamin is highly beneficial, even if a person's diet is already full of them.
Other vitamins are more specialist and deal with specific nutritional deficiencies so once that person's need is identified they can then get a supplement for that need.
Are there 'good' and 'bad' supplements?
Absolutely. If you're taking a multivitamin, check that it's a complete multivitamin. A good complete multivitamin will have 100% (or more) of your NRV (Nutrient Reference Value - previously referred to as RDA) for all ingredients, except magnesium and calcium. Check the label for percentages and look for GMO free and GMP certified on all types of supplements.
You should also check how absorbent your supplement is. Supplements in their bioactive forms (which is how the body recognises it) with a high absorption system means that there are no wasted nutrients and you get the full nutritional benefit. That's why food sources are far superior to synthetics so always look for ingredient names that you recognise. Supplements with poor absorption provide very little nutritional benefit, as they pass straight through the body without being used.
Finally, look out for any side effects listed on the packaging - many high strength multivitamins for example contain so much B6, that it can lead to unpleasant side effects such as stomach upset, tingling and numbness (it will say on their label 'caution, don't take this every day').
What's the best way to take magnesium and who should take it?
There are at least seven different types of magnesium and whilst it is often hailed as a cure for everything, the evidence from clinical trials around magnesium as an effective aid for sleep and anxiety is strong as is the data showing it can be beneficial in easing depression.
What do 'women's' supplements have in them that others don't?
Women and men need the same micro-nutrients and healthy fats in their diets to be healthy. Supplementing further than this depends on need. For example, a pre-menopausal woman may need more iron, whilst a pregnant woman may require more folic acid. It really depends on life stage and situation.
Are there any vitamins and minerals that shouldn't be taken together?
A great example is calcium: calcium inhibits the absorption of iron, zinc and copper which are key minerals. Calcium is a much easier mineral to get through your diet and can be obtained from milk, cheese, yoghurt, leafy greens or vegan-friendly options such as fortified soy rice or oat milk.
Are supplements better to take in liquid or powder form?
The most important thing is that people take what they need nutritionally for optimum health but consistently. It's better to have something that's convenient that you can easily take everyday, rather than a supplement that's difficult to take and tastes awful.
Do you need to take supplements every day or can you dip in and out?
Ideally, you need to supplement every day because the body metabolises supplements in the same way it does food. Even if you're supplementing for a specific need, such as better sleep, you would still need to take that supplement daily.
Some brands suggest supplementing every other day, but they're doing that because there is too much of a certain ingredient in it for the body to cope with.
There's the big topic of omega 3 and supplements - it seems it's the one that everyone has heard of. But what is it for? How does it work? And should we all be taking it?
Melanie Lawson, Founder of supplement brand Bare Biology, which specialises in Omega 3 and collagen supplements says; "Omega 3 is a key part of our brain, it literally forms part of the structure of our brain". Jackie McCusker, Nutritional Therapist at the University of Westminster's Be-Well London clinic has said "the recommended dose of Omega 3 fatty acids for each individual is different, dependant on their life stage, whilst The World Health Organisation (WHO) suggests that the minimum amount of combined EPA and DHA healthy adults should be having per day is 250-500mg" says Melanie. "But really we should be consuming a minimum of 2000mg EPA & 1000mg DHA combined each day for any real benefit. Our Bare Biology Lion Heart Fish Oil is the only product on the market that gives you this exact dose of Omega 3 in a single teaspoon".
Richard says, "In Omega 3's look for high strength. EPAs and DHAs are the prominent Omega 3 fatty acids that support heart and brain function so they need to be consumed at the optimum level for the full health benefits. And look for pure forms - for Omega 3 supplements, it's really important to understand how pure it is. Some actually do more harm than good, because they are full of toxins and pollutants from contaminated seas. Never trust an Omega 3 that doesn't say what type of fish is used. Ideally you'd want the Omega 3 to contain the antioxidant Astaxanthin too, that has been linked to healthier skin, endurance, heart health and the reduction of join pain.
NEOM top picks:
Bare Biology, Lion Heart Omega 3 Fish Oil Maxi Capsules, £28.50
2 capsules have 860mg EPA and 440mg DHA (the same as a whole tin of sardines).
Wild Nutrition, Bespoke Woman Food-Grown Balance Multi Nutrient, £30
Formulated for females, this is high in B vitamins and adaptogenic plant extracts that support the body's energy systems. Being food based gives it high absorption rates too.
Botanycl, Vegan Vitamin D3, £14.95
Often vitamin D3 is derived from sheep's wool, but this comes from the plant lichen. A good one to add to the list, especially as winter draws near and daylight hours are reduced.
Equi London, Original Formula, £45
An all-in-one formula to energise and strengthen body and mind. Also contains B6 to help combat hormonal niggles and supports the gut.
The Restored, Advanced Sleep Aid, £29
A magnesium blend that's been combined with natural sleep nutrients such as the essential amino acid, Tryptophan and Griffonia seed extract, 97% of users said they slept better after taking it.