depends on the individual, a blanket recommendation cannot be applied to the general population,” she explains.
But she does concede that there are some who do buy too many vitamins. “I find that there are a lot of people out there who do sometimes overdo it and are unnecessarily buying micronutrient supplements.”
Gibson says people should take micronutrient (vitamins and minerals) supplementation if they have specific micronutrient deficiencies like an iron deficiency; if whole food groups are being eliminated, such as dairy owing to allergies; if inefficiencies exist within the metabolism, such as poor liver function; and if a person has a medical condition, such as high cholesterol or heart disease.
Meanwhile, UK nutritional expert Patrick Holford, who also sells his own brand of vitamins, believes that most modernday diseases we suffer from are in some way related to suboptimum nutrition.
He also says food is nutritionally impoverished because of modern farming practices, which rely heavily on artificial fertilisers that rob the soil of nutrients; food manufacturing processes and refinement; as well as cooking, which destroys more than half the nutrients in food before it even reaches our plates.
“With the food we consume today being less nutritious than ever before, vitamins and minerals have increasingly become more of a commodity than a luxury,” he maintains.
While vitamins may still be essential to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients your body needs, you could save money by shopping smartly. People generally spend thousands of rands on supplements because many of them are imported. While there are international providers such as Metagenics that do produce quality brands, Horsman points out that there are also good-quality local products that should be considered, such as the Willow and NRF ranges, which are well priced.
You may wonder then if more expensive vitamins are indeed better quality. Unfortunately, there is no straight answer to this question, because it depends on the individual product. The good news is that brands aren’t necessarily important as cheaper supermarket and health store products are often made by the same manufacturers as the big names.
It’s important to do some research, however, before you pick something off the shelf. As a rule, if the nutrients present in the vitamin are way below the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA), then don’t buy them. Horsman points out that there are RDAs that have been established, but they are generally quite low.
So what’s the reasonable amount of money to spend on vitamins? Horsman says it’s difficult to put a number on it and points out that if you are looking at one or two vitamin formulations a month, you wouldn’t spend less than R200.
For those on a tight budget, she advises: “Get a good basic vitamin C that’s not expensive. It will still do a good job.” When it comes to vitamin B, she recommends a multivitamin B supplement or Biostrath, as it is easily absorbed and not that expensive.
Remember, too, that there are ways of getting your vitamin intake for free. You can still get some nutrients from the food that you eat, so make sure you have a balanced diet. And don’t be too afraid of the sun. “Morning and evening sun will give you vitamin D,” says Horsman.