The Rise in Supplements: BBC Report

Last updated on 05th Jan 2012 10:42am

The widely debated topic of vitamin and mineral supplements hit BBC breakfast news this morning. They often get a bashing from the BBC and the Government, but the numbers show that nutritional supplements could be the rising stars of better health. Last year’s sales in the UK were £380million, an overall growth of 2% and manufacturers say that demand is growing. 

Our most popular choice is a basic multivitamin tablet, on which we spent £100m last year, with spending on Vitamin C supplements coming in at a quarter of this sum. These are the insurance policy supplements, providing a nutritional safety net to ward off ill health. They can boost energy levels through the day, due to the B Vitamins present in the multi, and the extra Vitamin C is a wonderful immune enhancer.

Growth in popularity of combined supplements for particular needs was the highest, such as those designed specifically for pregnant women. This actually seems to be the only instance where the Government Guidelines recognise nutritional requirements beyond that obtained from a healthy diet, however there are other times and situations where supplementation may be helpful. For instance, people recovering from illness, suffer heavy menstrual cycles, those with digestive issues, or going through a stressful period, could all benefit from levels of nutrients that are very difficult to obtain from food alone (for more details on this see my blog post on reasons to supplement).

Berocca, the widely advertised blend of B Vitamins, Vit C and caffeine, was the fastest growing supplement, with a 29% increase in sales. Its clever premise of improving performance and appeal to ‘people like us’ have obviously been key to success. Additionally, it is a drink that can both rehydrate and replace the important water-soluble nutrients (Vits B & C) that are depleted after a night boozing, so it’s invariably a popular pick-me-up. Personally, I’m not keen on it because it contains sugar and artificial sweeteners including aspartame, which can be harmful (see a brief overview of this issue in my tips section). A good multivitamin, a gram or two of Vitamin C and some magically hydrating coconut water, would do just as good a job.     

The sales figures are very encouraging, showing that despite cynicism, many of us are now recognising that we may not be getting everything we need from diet alone or that we have an increased need for nutritional support. If you are interested in taking supplements but are concerned about safety or negative effects, then get in touch for some specific advice. A standard multivitamin does not have high enough quantities of nutrients to cause any issue with contraindications against medications or conditions. However, if you’re looking at putting together a plan of higher dose supplements, it is a good idea to speak to a nutritionist because they may interfere with medications and or health conditions. Remember, first and foremost, eat well, mostly plants and not too much!*

To see the BBC News footage go to:

*Adapted from a quote by Michael Pollen  

By Claire Harper, The Nutrition Guide


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