As the daughter of a scientist and obsessive watcher of shows such as ‘Trust Me, I’m a Doctor”, I am often to be heard starting a conversation with “Did you know…” and “I recently read an article…” I am a complete science nerd and love hearing about the latest research and advances in scientific knowledge.
However, I also think there’s a whole lot of crap out there claiming to be science (witness the mumbo-jumbo being used to sell your average bottle of shampoo these days) and it would help us all to have a healthy dose of scepticism about what we are told (and sold). Especially on the subject of supplements.
According to a report in 2012, the British dietary supplement market is worth almost £400 million and is continuing to grow. But despite a lot of marketing to the contrary much of the evidence on the efficacy of supplements is sketchy and some research even suggests that many of them could be harmful.
There’s a lot of competing evidence of different qualities so how does a layperson like me (or you) sift through it all? The answer is I don’t.
If the idea behind supplements is to plug nutritional gaps in your diet, then why not try to plug these gaps with what you eat instead? Vitamins and minerals in food are often much more bioavailable (easily absorbed by the body) than those in supplement form and usually a lot cheaper. It is also a lot more difficult to overdose on the levels provided in whole foods than in huge doses you can find in synthetic vitamin supplements.
Of course, there are still sometimes reasons to take supplements. Pregnant women are still recommended to take folic acid, I was tested by my doctor and found to be deficient in Vitamin D (produced by the body upon exposure to sunlight) – so I take Vitamin D supplements. If you think you are missing something – speak to your doctor – but think carefully before picking up those multi-vitamins. Maybe there’s a better way. I’d love to know what you guys think about this though – share your knowledge and opinions in the comments!