Everyday Health, Nutrients Database, Nutrition

What vitamins should I take? What nutrients do I need?

Which Vitamins Should I Take?It seems that each week we are bombarded with stories about which food is “good” or “bad” or which nutrient will either kill or cure us. Today we have access to, and are exposed to, more information than ever before about what we should and shouldn’t eat, yet more and more of the media coverage seems to be contradictory or just plain confusing. This article aims to simply explain the role of vitamins and nutrients.

What are nutrients?

Food provides a range of different nutrients, some providing energy, while others are essential for growth and maintenance of the body.

Nutritionists have a widely accepted understanding of the role of nutrients in health and disease. People need many different nutrients if they are to maintain health and reduce the risk of diet-related diseases. Each nutrient has a particular series of functions in the body and some nutrients are needed in larger quantities than others.

Nutrients that cannot be made by the human body are called essential nutrients and must be derived from food sources. Essential nutrients include vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids and some carbohydrates as a source of energy. Non-essential nutrients are, as the name suggests, nutrients which the body has the ability to make from other compounds, as well as, from food sources. Nutrients are generally divided into 2 categories, macro-nutrients, and micro-nutrients.

Macro vs Micro – What’s the difference?

The majority of mainstream dietary advice focuses on our macro-nutrient intake. Macro-nutrients are carbohydrates (such as bread, rice, potatoes, pasta), protein (meat, fish, eggs, dairy foods) and fats (oils, spreads, oily fish) that we need to eat in relatively large amounts in the diet (hence the term “macro”). These nutrients form the majority of what we eat and provide our bodies with energy and also the building blocks for growth and maintenance of a healthy body.

Vitamins and minerals are micro-nutrients which are only needed by the body in very small amounts (hence the term “micro”), but are essential to keep us healthy. Most vitamins cannot be made by the body, so need to be provided through the diet or supplementation.

Vitamins are either water-soluble or fat-soluble. Water-soluble vitamins cannot be stored in our bodies and are readily excreted and include the B vitamins and vitamin C. Fat-soluble vitamins are absorbed through the gut with the help of the fat in our diet. These include vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K.

In addition to vitamins, there are certain minerals we need to keep our bodies healthy. These include calcium, chromium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, selenium and zinc.

So, what’s the issue?

Nutrition Aware: proficient or deficient?, a Nutritional analysis report commissioned from the Future Foundation by Seven Seas Ltd, highlights that the current obsession with counting calories and yo-yo dieting is having a detrimental effect on our health.

What is evident from our nutritional analysis is that deep-rooted confusion currently undermines many consumers’ ability to ensure an intake of micronutrients that is appropriate to their personal situation or circumstance. The food-industry and media focus on macro-nutrients and our own obsession with Calorie counting is driving a blinkered view of nutritional intake.

On 28 March 2011 representatives from business, academia and health joined forces to sign and publish a global call to action pushing for a larger role for nutrition in supporting public health.  Specifically, the document flagged:

“a lesser known problem of micro-nutrient deficiency in the developed world, where the supply of food can be plentiful but some population groups are not achieving the right level of micro-nutrients in their diet to support good health.”

The UK Government in recent decades has collected dietary information using the National Diet and Nutrition Surveys (NDNS) and there is strong evidence suggesting that adults[1,2,3,4,5], young children[1,6,7], young people[1,2,8] and those aged 65[9] years and over are consuming lower than recommended levels of several vitamins and minerals.

Yes, that’s fine, but what do I really need?

A healthy, varied and balanced diet should provide most people the nutrients needed for health, growth and development.

However, certain groups within the population are recommended to supplement their diet. In the U.K., the Department of Health recommends Vitamin D supplements for pregnant and lactating women (10 µg/day) and those aged 65 and over (10 µg/day). Pregnant women are also advised to take folic acid supplements for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy to prevent deformities such as spina bifida developing in their baby.

For children under 5 years old, supplements containing vitamins A, C and D are recommended.

Iron supplements may be necessary for women with very heavy menstrual losses and women who enter pregnancy with low iron stores.

However, a “healthy, varied and balanced diet” is often difficult to achieve. Our research supports the growing body of evidence that “good nutrition” is not of prime importance in everyday lives. This research undertaken with the Future Foundation has revealed a fixation with dieting and that our weight is taking priority over the nutritional content of our food, which may result in nutritional deficiencies.

Whatever the reasons, be they lack of education, monetary pressures or mixed messages in the media, almost one-third of 16-24s found it hard to know which foods benefit their health.  We risk the next generation not understanding the benefits of good nutrition on their health.

The view at Seven Seas is that supplements should be an aid to a healthier lifestyle.  Supplements contain a range of essential vitamins and minerals which help those with less healthy, or irregular diets, to “bridge the gap” and meet recommended intakes of nutrients, thus ensuring the maintenance of normal health and well-being.

To make sure that you are unlikely to be deficient take a good quality supplement. For a healthy person with no known health conditions nutritionists recommend a good quality multivitamin and mineral and a daily omega 3 supplement.

Check out our Nutrients Database for more detailed information on each nutrient.

Always consult your doctor before taking supplements and check for interactions with all medication.

Are you Nutrition Aware? Take our Seven Seas Nutritional Aware tool

Good Nutrition – Good nutrition? are we lacking the basic tools to understand

Nutritional deficiency – Nutritional deficiency or profeciency key findings

Food and Nutrtition - Nutritional confusion in an age of food expertise

Calorie counting – Calorie Counting – The Cult

References

  1. Gregory J, Lowe S, Bates C, Prentice A, Jackson L, Smithers G, et al. National Diet and Nutrition Survey: young people aged 4 to 18 years. Volume 1 Report of the Diet and Nutrition Survey. London: The Stationery Office. 2000.
  2. Bates CJ, Cole TJ, Mansoor MA, Pentieva KD, Finch S. Geographical variations in nutrition-related vascular risk factors in the UK: National Diet and Nutrition Survey of People Aged 65 Years and Over. J Nutr Health Aging 2001;5(4):220-5.
  3. Elia M, Stratton RJ. Geographical inequalities in nutrient status and risk of malnutrition among English people aged 65 y and older. Nutrition 2005;21(11-12):1100-6.
  4. Walmsley CM, Bates CJ, Prentice A, Cole TJ. Relationship between cigarette smoking and nutrient intakes and blood status indices of older people living in the UK: further analysis of data from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey of people aged 65 years and over, 1994/95. Public Health Nutr 1999;2(2):199-208.
  5. Aasheim ET, Hofso D, Hjelmesaeth J, Birkeland KI, Bohmer T. Vitamin status in morbidly obese patients: a cross-sectional study. Am J Clin Nutr 2008;87(2):362-9.
  6. Preece MA, McIntosh WB, Tomlinson S, Ford JA, Dunnigan MG, O’Riordan JL. Vitamin-D deficiency among Asian immigrants to Britain. Lancet 1973;1(7809):907-10.
  7. Shaw NJ, Pal BR. Vitamin D deficiency in UK Asian families: activating a new concern. Arch Dis Child 2002;86(3):147-9.
  8. Pal BR, Marshall T, James C, Shaw NJ. Distribution analysis of vitamin D highlights differences in population subgroups: preliminary observations from a pilot study in UK adults. J Endocrinol 2003;179(1):119-29.
  9. Gueguen S, Pirollet P, Leroy P, Guilland JC, Arnaud J, Paille F, et al. Changes in serum retinol, alpha-tocopherol, vitamin C, carotenoids, zinc and selenium after micronutrient supplementation during alcohol rehabilitation. J Am Coll Nutr 2003;22(4):303-10.

Disclaimer: Seven Seas Life is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The articles are based on peer reviewed research, and discoveries/products mentioned in the articles may not be approved by our regulatory bodies, you will find no mention of Seven Seas products within the pages of the Seven Seas Life Section..Read more

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Comments

  1. Leigh says:

    My age is 53 and i do a lot of sleeping no energy at all what supplement would you recommend.

  2. SevenSeasLife says:

    Leigh
    Thank you for asking for further advice on supplementation for you as an individual. One of our Nutritional Advisors will contact you directly to advise you.
    Seven Seas Life Team

  3. Anonymous says:

    My age is 30, and, ongoing a bipolar treatment (frequent, night-wake-up-calls), have a sedative lifestyle, occasional leg aches, also, categorized as having micropolicystic ovaries (with one quite big one), worth noting my vegetarian tendancies.

    I would like to know which product works well with me [winter and summer time].

    Thank you for the help.

  4. SevenSeasLife says:

    Thank you for your query regarding supplements. A member of our Nutritional Advise Team will contact you directly, via email, directly to respond to your personal query.

    Seven Seas Life Team

  5. Ted says:

    As a coeliac Ive been told we cannot absorb oils and therefore should not buy oil based vitamins. I have been taking solid multivitamins for the over 50s (Iam 73). Your advice please

  6. ramy says:

    hii .. my name is ramy and im 15 , and im using [supplements] too maintain a healthy body as i grow up … i would like to know if the you would help advance the growth of the body ? in other words … would it make me taller ??

  7. SevenSeasLife says:

    Hi Ramy – I have passed your comment onto the Seven Seas Customer Advice Team who will respond to you directly.

  8. Emy says:

    Hi I am 29 , I want to have good supplements to have better chances of conception, I am also concerned about heavy menstrual cycle…some times with irregularities. Please suggest which supplement is good for me. Thanks

  9. SevenSeasLife says:

    Hi Emy – a member of the Seven Seas Consumer Advice team will contact you directly in response to your questions. The following article may be helpful.

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