by Dr Anthony Egboh, WAFFL Doctor
Today over the counter vitamins has become a billion dollar industry where all sorts of products can be seen regularly on TV adverts, billboards, newspapers and magazines. Even powerful influencers (athletes, celebrities) are used to front the advertising campaigns. All of this creates a misconception that vitamin consumption is the answer to any health concerns.
This form of aggressive promotion has started a conversation- “Are multivitamins really the answer?”
As a GP, one of the underlying principles is “prevention is always better than cure”. Vitamins do have a role in preventing certain conditions. However I sense the role of making sure you have a healthy diet appears to be lost in translation. Keeping to a healthy diet and lifestyle should provide all the essential nutrients and vitamins required. Therefore additional multivitamin supplements should not be needed except for particular conditions.
Examples of common conditions routinely found after appropriate investigation are:
1. Iron Deficient Anaemia: Lack of haemoglobin in the body associated with tiredness. This can be due to lack of iron(ferritin) and commonly found in women partly due to their menstrual cycle. Therefore iron tablets e.g. Ferrous sulphate are used to help.
2. Pernicious Anaemia: Due to a disorder in the absorption of vitamin B12 which also can be associated with tiredness with generalised pins and needles. This can be managed with the aid of B12 injections.
3. Vitamin D Deficiency: Due to either a lack of sunlight and/or poor diet. Symptoms like fatigue and generalised aches and pains occur. High strength vitamin D tablets and adequate exposure to sunlight are usually required.
4. Foetus development in pregnancy: Women should ensure they take essential vitamin folic acid to prevent abnormal foetal development.
These examples can be either explained or confirmed by a blood test organised by your family doctor. However there are other medical and surgical conditions/operations where supplements are essential and probably needed for life.
Whatever your stance on medicine and supplementary medicines, I would like to point out your body is an amazing machine which can store, maintain and even make vitamins.
From a financial standpoint, having a good range of fruit and vegetables is far cheaper and beneficial in many aspects then just buying multivitamin tablets. Good functioning of the digestive system cannot be achieved with pills alone. However some people may see it as a short cut and would prefer sticking to popping pills.This misguidance means their missing the point and buying into the notion that you need expensive supplements for your body to function.
At WAFFL we always encourage a healthy diet, it should be incorporated into your lifestyle as standard. Parents/Guardians need to be aware so they can guide their children accordingly. We should not be deceived into thinking I need to buy vitamins for my baby, and my teenager and also myself when a good healthy mixture of fruit and vegetables amongst others will do exactly what your body needs.