Aren't vitamins and minerals the creation of the health industry?

Do we really need them?

Posted Answers


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 Answer by MartinV


No! Vitamins and minerals are nutrients. We need nutrients, traditionally through our food supply, to survive. But we're not getting enough nutrients from our diet and this is a main cause illness and disease.


Surely I can get enough from my food

It is a common belief that there is no need to take supplements when people eat a healthy diet. It is unlikely that anyone in our society consumes enough vitamins and minerals from their food alone. Apart from pesticides, insecticides and fertilisers which directly pollute our food, intensive farming has depleted the earth of vital minerals.

Low levels of iron

A staggering 96 per cent of women aged 19 to 24 and 91 per cent 19 to 64 year old women have well below the recommended intake of iron, according to research undertaken by the Food Standards Agency and Dept of Health. Women lose iron every month when they have periods and this may account for such low levels, but their lack of iron means that their babies may be deficient too.

The result of low levels of iron in the blood are that you can be anaemic - not having enough red blood cells, and the symptoms are:


loss of appetite


pale skin

and even restless legs.

You can get more iron by eating plenty of green leafy vegetables such as spinach, greens, and kale and from liver, red meat, pulses such as lentils, wholegrains and dried fruit. Sometimes people get constipation when they supplement iron, so you may find it better to have Spirulina which is high in iron or one of the liquid iron supplements.

Absorption is often hindered

Vitamins and minerals are needed for chemical reactions such as releasing energy from food or breaking down fat molecules;
Others build strong bones, keep skin supple and help us fight stress or pollution;
Additives in foods and antibiotics in meat adversely affect our immune systems.
With a healthy intestinal tract it is possible to absorb about 30 per cent of the zinc in food, but with a zinc deficiency the metabolism of Vitamins A and B6 suffers because the enzymes which convert them to usable forms are zinc dependent.

According to Alex Kirchin, Technical Manager, Viridian Nutrition:

"If we eat an exclusively organic diet, it is possible to obtain most of the basic levels of nutrients we need, but in reality, the high levels of anti-nutrients generated by environmental pollutants combined with our stress-inducing society, mean that we need far more than the recommended daily allowance (RDA). We actually need optimum or super-nutrition and that can only be attained with food supplements.

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Smart purchasing – what to look for when you buy vitamins and minerals


Some people take care to avoid eating wheat, dairy products, yeast, sugar, salt, artificial flavourings and sweeteners, without realising they are contained in the supplements they are taking.

For instance, pure Vitamin C is quite unpleasant to taste and bears no resemblance to the sweet-tasting orange tablets which children love because they are either laced with sugar or (even worse) sweeteners that have been linked to health problems.


Look carefully at the list of ingredients to avoid unwanted additives;
Become familiar with what they mean and go for the supplements where ‘added extras’ are left out;
Tinctures present no problems as they do not need binders, fillers or coatings;
Avoid supplements made from GM sources;
Look to see if sugar or an artificial sweetener is listed in the ingredients;
Check the list of fillers and binders – see "Acceptable Ingredients" below;
If there are any E numbers listed don’t buy!

Tablets (but not capsules) usually need additional materials to make up their bulk and these are called fillers or excipients while binders bind all the ingredients together. Some of the commonly used excipients are shellac - insect resin - and talc, which most of us don’t fancy eating!

Acceptable ingredients

Dicalcium phosphate; cellulose; alginic acid/sodium alginate; gum acacia/gum arabic; calcium stearate or magnesium stearate (vegetarians should check if this is animal or vegetable source); silica; zein; and Brazil wax.

From: The Optimum Nutrition Bible, Patrick Holford


Some proprietary brands contain cochineal which is considered by Patrick Holford, to be one of the top 20 additives to be avoided, as it is linked to asthma and rhinitis. It’s made from the dried bodies of an insect found on cactus plants!


When it comes to choosing between tincture, capsules, tablets or vegi caps, Patrick Holford, claims, ‘There isn’t much difference between them. The advantage of a tablet or capsule is that you can pack in more ingredients. A concentrated extract is absorbed quicker - but you need to take higher doses to equal the amount packed into a tablet.

‘Manufacturers carry out disintegration tests on their products using simulated gastric juices. Capsules or vegi caps dissolve quickly, but tablets made by good manufacturers will completely disintegrate in 10 minutes.’


Some supplements incorporate the vitamin or mineral in a more complex molecule so that they are in the form they appear naturally – sometimes known as foodstate. They are better absorbed by the body and can be more powerful.


Timing is crucial – when to take supplements

If you take a number of supplements you don’t want to be remembering C at meal times, B in between, A at bedtime and so on. The most important thing is to remember to take your supplements every day and it's easier to remember if you take them at a set time. Many supplements have to be taken with a meal so breakfast is a good time to enable you to get the most of them throughout the day.

One main exception is calcium which should be taken at night time because bone regeneration takes place in your sleep;
Evening primrose oil and some of the fishy oils can make people feel a bit nauseous and it is obviously better to take those with food;
Any supplements containing isoflavones such as estroven, should be taken at the same time every day because they prompt a rapid increase in blood isoflavones which peaks within four hours and then decreases.
What is Time Release?

Time Release supplements release small quantities of the supplement over a prolonged period. They are most suitable for people who find it easier to take their supplements all together first thing in the morning.

Combining supplements

A number of supplements depend on the presence of others for optimum absorption and effectiveness:

Vitamin C or foods rich in the vitamin when you are taking iron;
To release Vitamin A into the system you should take zinc;
Vitamin E and selenium are helpful to each other;
The body can’t use calcium effectively without magnesium;
Vitamin D assists the absorption of calcium too;
Vitamin B6 requires Vitamin B2 to be effective so a B complex may be better

Optimum nutrition

Patrick Holford
As many as 41 per cent of Britons obviously do believe they need vitamin and mineral supplements because they spend over £350 million a year on them. For some people a good multivitamin and multimineral provides sufficient intake.
High doses of supplements may be vital to someone affected by PMS or menopause or more seriously ME, multiple sclerosis, PMS, irritable bowel and arthritis and other symptoms.

According to Patrick Holford, Founder of the Institute of Optimal Nutrition, ‘The RDAs (Recommended Daily Allowance) are levels which are designed to prevent deficiency, such as scurvy, beri beri and rickets, not to provide optimum health.

‘With some vitamins such as Vitamin C you could take 10 times the recommended daily allowance for specific problems. But for magnesium, calcium and zinc, for example, the RDAs are about the accurate amount that one should take.’


EU Legislation limits our choice

On July 31 2003 a new law crept into our legal system which will seriously limit the amount of vitamins and minerals that we can take and restrict our freedom of choice.

The EU Directive on Food Supplements has been controversial since it was first suggested for two reasons:

Around 300 vitamins and minerals have not been included on the list of those that can still be sold.
It will affect around 5,000 products which are already being reformulated, or which will be taken off health food store shelves;
Many well known vitamins such as Vitamin A, B5, B6, C and minerals such as manganese are due to be limited to much lower upper safety limits (see Table).
In this country the Directive became law on 1 August 2005, but a temporary period of grace was granted to the UK until 31 December 2009 during which time supplements can still be sold provided a full dossier has been submitted (and not rejected) to the relevant EU scientific advisory body, The European Food Standards Association by July.

To find out how to sign a petition and how to write to the EU Commissioner to Save Our Supplements: visit

Consumers for Health Choice celebrity supporters:

Sir Paul McCartney
Sir Elton John
Sir Cliff Richard
Carole Caplin
Jenny Seagrove
Lady Annabel Goldsmith
Zoe Ball
Chris Barber
Janey Lee Grace Simon le Bon
Dr John Briffa .
Neneh Cherry
Phil Collins
Zac Goldsmith
Robert Hardy
Jules Holland
Suzi Quatro
Bianca Jagger Julia McKenzie
Holly Johnson
Marcus Trescothick
Anthea Turner
Rick Wakeman
David Wilkie MBE
Charlie Watts
Thom York

What are these supplements?

Lower doses:
VITAMIN A: is essential for the health of eyes, boosts the immune system, reducing the risk of infection. As an anti-oxidant Vitamin A fights free radicals which roam around the body damaging cells. The level of 3,000 mcg a day has been safely used in the UK for years, but is set to be halved when the Directive becomes law.

VITAMIN B3: (Niacin): helps to maintain mental stability and memory, reduces headaches and lowers cholesterol levels. Patrick Holford often gives 500mg of niacin a day to mental health patients to maintain their stability. ‘They regress on lower levels and will suffer greatly from a restriction to 17mg as the recommended Upper Safe Level.’

VITAMIN B6: the subject of controversy in recent years, the new recommendation is 10mg a day. It is taken by 3 million Britons to ease PMS, stress, menopausal symptoms, and depression and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Patrick Holford claims, ‘Many women with PMS find that 100 mg a day of Vitamin B6 eases their symptoms, without any evidence of ill effects. The concern was that it produced nerve damage when taken in large doses, but a study of 555 people who took between 30mg and 230mg was carried out by the Institute of Optimum Nutrition. There were no adverse reactions or toxicity but there were considerable health benefits.’

VITAMIN C: boosts the immune system helping us to fight infections and colds, relieves allergies, and is vital for healthy skin. Many people with serious illnesses including cancer take high levels of Vitamin C.

Patrick Holford explains that the upper safe limit of 1,000mg a day has been set due to fear of Vitamin C causing kidney stones. ‘Robust medical research has already proven that 4,000mg a day has no negative effect whatsoever on kidney stone formation.’

He also claims that fears of loose bowels on 2,000 mg of Vitamin C are unfounded, particularly as a nationwide study found that 90 per cent of people didn’t go to the toilet even once a day!

MANGANESE: helps to neutralise free radicals, manufactures fat, sex hormones and breast milk and is essential to help the body use other vitamins and minerals. Patrick Holford believes that the recommended upper safe limit of 4g is not high enough. ‘A level of 20mg would be more appropriate, because only 5 per cent of the manganese we take is absorbed and people with low levels need that much to restore it.’

Not on the approved list:

BORON: helps the body to use calcium, is important for bone strength and used in menopause formulations, but it is not on the EU approved list. Patrick Holford, claims, ‘Boron has been proven in trials to be non-toxic.’ Deficiencies can cause high blood pressure, arthritis, osteoporosis.

SULPHUR: the late James Coburn and the actor Nick Nolte swore by MSM, a supplement which contains sulphur. Coburn was virtually crippled by arthritis but after taking the supplement in his seventies he had a new wife, exercised every day and made more films!!

Sulphur is also good for skin, hair and nails, relieving stress, asthma, countering the effects of ageing and detoxifying the body. Currently it is not on the approved list and could prove difficult to get when the legislation goes through.

CHROMIUM PICOLINATE: The main role of chromium in the body is to balance blood sugar levels, and reduce sugar cravings. Deficiency signs include dizziness, irritability if hungry, tiredness, and thirst. Chromium picolinate and polynicotinate are forms which the body can most easily use but they are not on the approved list.

CALCIUM CARBONATE: essential for healthy bones and teeth, helps to prevent osteoporosis in post-menopausal women, and promotes a healthy heart and nerves. Calcium carbonate is on the EU approved list, but amino acid chelate and citrate are not. ‘These forms should be included as they are absorbed twice as well as calcium carbonate which is on the approved list,’ explains Patrick Holford.

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High doses of vitamins supplements can be a lifeline for some:

Anne, 33, of West London was 28 when she became so ill that she had to give up work as a solicitor. ‘I have small ischaemic attacks like mini strokes, and haemoplegic migraines which give me a blinding headache on one side and paralysis on the other side of my body which lasts several days.

‘I was so bad that I used to push myself along on my bottom, but none of the doctors knew what was wrong with me. When I was in France a neurologist there diagnosed Cadasil disease, a rare neurological illness.

‘Now I take a large number of vitamins which make the difference between my being able to walk or not. I went to see Dr Gordon Skinner who put me on Vitamin B12 that I have injected in very high doses to help with sensory problems, numbness, pins and needles and fatigue. If I don’t have them I get very bad numbness.

‘I also take Vitamin E for my blood, magnesium to ease the muscle pain associated with the cortisone, essential fatty acids which help brain function, and Citrus Bioflavonoids to help the small blood vessels affected by neurological problems and N-Acetyl-15 which supports the adrenal glands. I also a supplement that contains a variety of wheatgrasses for energy. It was developed by a man who was told he would never walk again. I am getting stronger all the time and hope to go back to work in a year or so.'

In my medical practice, whenever I begin to talk about Vitamins & Minerals, most people ask “What are Vitamins and/or Minerals, do I need them and what is the best way to get them?”

I begin by explaining that the human body requires certain essential vitamins and minerals to be introduced, usually through food, into the body on a daily basis.

The only problem with this is that our modern day farming techniques can and often does remove an amount of those essential vitamins and minerals. A government study done over seventy years ago warned us that our soils were depleted of many of the necessary nutrients (vitamins and minerals), which means if the nutrients aren't in the soil, how do you expect them to be in your fruits & vegetables? Modern farmers use fertilizers that speed the growing process, but these fertilizers lack many of the nutrients that need to be in the soil. Than there is the processing of the produce that can remove even more of the vital nutrients. So what are we to do?

The answer is very simple. You need to supplement your diet with a Whole Food Supplement. I do not mean an off the counter, at your grocery store, vitamin and/or mineral, I mean a True Whole Food Supplement. There is a very big difference between the two.

By definition (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia), whole food supplements are foods that have been compressed into tablet form, poured into capsules or powdered. The word “whole” indicates that the end product — a supplement — does not contain parts of foods, or synthetic or isolated vitamins. Ideally, the foods comprising these supplements have not been subjected to irradiation, contain no pesticide or herbicide residues, contain no GMO (genetically modified organisms), have not been sterilized, and do not contain animal products that have been subjected to steroids, antibiotics or other drugs. The belief being, the closer to nature, the more benefit foods provide the consumer.

Further, whole food supplements should not contain isolated minerals, amino acids, carotenes or any other substance that is not native to, and still intact within, the original food. Thus, a supplement that contains foods plus a mixture of isolated (also called “fractionated”) vitamins, minerals, amino acids and other substances, does not constitute a whole food supplement. Examples of whole food supplement ingredients may include carrots, broccoli, kale, alfalfa, wheat grass, acerola cherry, cauliflower, kelp, wild pansy, spirulina, bovine liver, bovine kidney, radishes and quinoa.

As for your typical over the counter multi-vitamin/mineral, as puts it, please don’t make the mistake of shopping for supplements at discount stores or large chains like Wal-Mart or Walgreen’s. In my opinion, these are examples of companies that primarily use cheap synthetic ingredients.
Synthetic alternatives to whole foods are known as “isolates”. Your body will absorb only a small percentage of an isolate form of vitamins and minerals and utilize even less. On top of that, there could potentially be side effects, depending on the quality of the isolate.
Many retail outlets and online sellers are primarily interested in your money, not your health. Supplements are not their specialty. Always refer to medical practitioners who specialize in Health & Wellness, for your nutritional questions.
You wouldn’t go to your local Fast Food Restaurant for a nice steak, would you? The same attitude should apply to your health products. You will get what you pay for, so buyers beware.
Consider this when choosing a supplement:
• If the ingredients were all natural, it would say so on their label.
• If the product went through vigorous quality control, you can bet that it would be mentioned.
• If there were no additives or major potential allergens in the product, they would definitely tell you all about it.
Additionally, the ingredients many companies use are not only synthetic, but there is a likelihood they may not have been thoroughly tested for purity and potency.
I am very pleased to tell you that there are products on the market that were designed to meet very high standards. I was asked to help design products, programs and health plans for Health & Wellness. Our core philosophy is that in order to reach True Wellness, you must have proper weight control and proper nutrition. This can only be accomplished by using Whole Food products, exercise and a little determination.
The bottom line is that in order to achieve Your Bodies Optimal Best, you must start with a solid nutritional foundation; we at Ultra International believe we have done just that. Using nothing but the finest ingredients, our Soul Super Food and Mind Super Drink is second to none.
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