Brits 'wasting money on health supplements', says NHS report

Before junk food, ready meals and multi-vitamins, people relied on their daily diet to provide all the nutrients their bodies needed. Things have changed though - in 2009, the dietary supplements and vitamins market was worth a massive £670 million and many of us spend a sizeable amount of our hard-earned cash on topping up our nutrients.

Are health supplements a waste of money?
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But are we being conned? A report by NHS Choices suggests we are.

Entitled Supplements: Who needs them? the report claims that marketing, press coverage and the "sheer volume of misinformation floating around on the internet" are to blame for our fairly recent obsession with supplements, despite the fact that many "simply do not have enough robust evidence to support them".

Vitamins were highlighted as a waste of money for most - with a few notable exceptions, including those over 65, those with dark skin and those who did not get a regular dose of sun (all of whom should reportedly take vitamin D), and children from six months to five years, who were advised to take a multivitamin, the authors say we are just buying "surplus amounts of vitamins" we've already obtained through our diet.

The report claims there is "little evidence" to suggest that vitamin C supplements could prevent the cold virus, though it did concede that it may reduce the duration "a little". Zinc, on the other hand, boasted recent evidence that seemed to confirm its effectiveness in fighting the cold virus but the authors suggested it "may not seem worth the expense".

Meanwhile, only those who had suffered a heart attack reaped definite benefits from oily fish and further trials would be necessary to "confirm suggestions of a protective effect on cardiovascular health".

As for antioxidants, well... we'd be better off getting them from a balanced diet.

In conclusion, the authors wrote: "Overall, it is clear that we may be placing our hope in products that still require far more testing."

The problem is, how many of us are eating a healthy, nutrient-packed, balanced diet?

Dr Carrie Ruxton, from the Health Supplements Information Service, disputed the claims. She told The Telegraph: "Evidence shows that groups within the British population continue to have inadequate intakes of a number of nutrients.

"UK dietary surveys over the last 25 years have consistently showed that intakes of vitamins and minerals in many population groups fail to meet recommended levels, with the most recent national dietary survey revealing no significant improvement in intakes."

What do you think? Are you an advocate of health supplements or do you agree that they're a waste of money? Leave a comment below...