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Half the UK take a vitamin a day

5 min read

Research has revealed that half the country take at least one vitamin supplement per day, with occasional usage estimated at around 65%. Are you one of these pill popping brits? If so, then do you know which ones you should really be taking? Here are our top 3 for general health and well being...

Vitamin D

Vitamin D helps to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. These nutrients are needed to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy. Vitamin D also bolsters your immune system to fight off infectious diseases like the flu, and because it ups the calcium you absorb from food, it helps prevent bone loss, which can begin as early as your thirties.

Why should I take it?

While there are food sources of Vitamin D as mentioned below, we in fact get very little vitamin D from food, our body makes most of our vitamin D in reaction to sunlight on our skin. On average, it takes 10 to 30 minutes of midday UV exposure, without wearing sunscreen, to prompt your body to generate between 10,000iu and 20,000iu of vitamin D. With many of us sat indoors or behind a computer screen all day we're falling way short of getting enough. Compounding this issue is the fact that as we age our body becomes less efficient at synthesising the vitamin. For these reason certain groups of people are at risk of not getting enough, this includes people over the age of 65.

A lack of vitamin D can lead to bone deformities such as rickets in children, and bone pain and tenderness as a result of a condition called osteomalacia in adults.

 How much should I take?

The NHS recommends that babies who are breastfed from birth to one year be given a daily supplement of 8.5 - 10 mcg (400iu) of vitamin D. Babies fed formula milk get enough until they have less than 500ml of formula a day.

From ages one to four children should then be given a daily supplement containing 10 mcg (400iu) of vitamin D.

The UK Government also recommends that everyone from five years of age and throughout adulthood should consider a 10 mcg (400iu) supplement daily.

Make sure you buy vitamin D3, not D2. D3 is what you'd make from the sun, while D2 is synthetic and takes longer to convert to a usable nutrient in the body. Also, take the pill with a meal as Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin - you may absorb up to 50 percent more if you pair it with food.

Which foods can I get it from?

Oily fish gives us the most vitamin D, this includes for example salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel. Other sources include red meat, liver, egg yolks, fortified foods such as most fat spreads and some breakfast cereals.


There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids: ALA, EPA and DHA. ALA is not very active in the body and needs to be converted into EPA and DHA in order to become active. This process is highly inefficient in humans where only about 5% gets converted into EPA, and as little as 0.5% get converted into DHA. Because of this, ALA should never be relied on as the sole omega-3 source.

EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid) has many essential functions but has been found to be particularly effective against certain mental conditions, especially depression.

DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid), has the main role of serving as a structural component in cell membranes, particularly in nerve cells in the brain and eyes. It constitutes about 40% of polyunsaturated fats in the brain.

Why should I take it?

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids, meaning that the body can’t make them and they must be obtained from the diet or other external sources. 

Omega-3 fatty acids are important for the maintenance of good health. Studies have shown that people who live in a country where the average diet is rich in omega-3-packed oily fish, there is a lower risk of heart disease. Research has shown that DHA and EPA found in fish oil, lower triglycerides, reduce inflammation, stabilise heart rhythms, and at higher intakes, help prevent blood clotting.

Aside from heart-health benefits, fish oil may also help brain development, protect memory, and reduce depression. Due to its anti-inflammatory effects, fish oil may help ease muscle and joint aches and make skin look younger.

How much should I take?

There is no specific recommended daily intake for omega-3 fatty acids however it is generally recommended to eat fatty fish at least two times per week, or look out for a supplement that gives you around 450mg of EPA and DHA per adult daily dose. Fish oil and krill oil are good choices, and DHA from algae is recommended for vegetarians and vegans.

Which foods can I get it from?

Mackerel, salmon, anchovies, sardines, sprats, fresh crab and pilchards are all great foods for omega-3. Fortified bread, fish fingers and eggs are also good as well as dark-green veg, pecans, walnuts, flaxseeds and hazelnuts, however plant-based sources appear to be harder for our bodies to use than fish versions.


Magnesium is used by every muscle in our bodies, immersed in over 300 chemical processes. Those functions regulate everything from metabolism and sleep cycles to blood pressure.

Why should I take it?

Magnesium deficiency is a surprising health issue slipping under the radar. The majority of us are thought to suffer from inadequate levels of magnesium.

7 out of 10 women in the UK are reported as having an inadequate intake of this important mineral, making it one of the most frequent mineral deficiency found in the UK population.

Symptoms for magnesium deficiency include anxiety, muscle cramps, lack of sleep, nausea, high blood pressure, anaemia, hormonal issues, mood swings, irritability, lethargy,  and depression.

Magnesium is also incredibly significant in relation to diabetes with research suggesting that those with depleted levels of this mineral are susceptible to developing diabetes.

How much should I take?

Depending on age, the recommended daily allowance is 240 to 420mg, despite many health professionals suggesting that this amount should be double.

The majority of people consume less than 250mg from food, which is unlikely to be enough for most. The most convenient way to boost levels is to take a supplement. You can take the pills any time of day, but popping them before bed may help you sleep more soundly.

Which foods can I get it from?

Pumpkin seeds (roasted), almonds, brazil nuts, sesame seeds, peanuts (roasted, salted), walnuts, rice (whole grain brown), wholemeal bread, spinach, cooked beans, broccoli.

Vitamin supplements should not be used as a substitute for a balanced diet. If you do take them, make sure you do not exceed your daily requirement.

A healthy balanced diet is the best way to consume all the nutrients we need. Sometimes however this isn't possible and then supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying any supplements or herbal medicines.