Vitamin and mineral sales have soared in the UK in recent years.
Figures released last year showed that 24 million UK adults – around 46 per cent – now take supplements daily.
One of the most common to take is a multivitamin – which combines a range of nutrients into one tablet.
“The first stop for most people when looking to overhaul their health through nutrition is a good multivitamin,” said Beth Morris, clinical nutritionist at BioCare.
“Such a multivitamin supplement is by no means a replacement for a healthy diet and lifestyle, but rather a synergistic addition to it.
“This is necessary to ensure that we have an optimum baseline of nutrition and a multivitamin supplement also provides additional support for those with higher nutrient needs, such as children, the elderly, pregnant women, those with poor digestion, or individuals with a particular health condition.”
However, the range of multivitamins on offer can be confusing, leaving many wondering which is the best option.
“To the average person the market appears to be saturated with multivitamin supplements and we can become easily confused by all of the bus banners and A-boards telling us about the next best thing,” said Morris.
“As a rule of thumb, if you can buy them from a supermarket or chemist as a ‘by-one-get-one-free’ they are not the right supplement for you.
“It is much better to purchase them from specialist online retailers or local independent health-stores to get the most therapeutic products on the market.”
She reveals the four key things to look out for when choosing a multivitamin.
Look for iron citrate on the label
“You should look at the forms of each nutrient, since not all forms are created equal,” said Morris.
“It is vitally important to know what the vitamin or mineral is bound to as this can either aid or impede absorption in our gut.
“For instance, ferrous sulphate (available from the GP) and iron citrate (a common form of iron provided in food supplements) are worlds apart in the nutrition world, with the latter being the preferred form as it is far better absorbed and avoids common side effects (e.g. constipation) when taking iron from the GP.”
Choose magnesium ascorbate
“Other differences you may have noticed are different forms of vitamin C, as either ascorbic acid or magnesium ascorbate for example, the latter of which is a ‘buffered’ form which many find gentler on their digestive tract and easier to tolerate,” said Morris.
“This goes on for each nutrient available on the market. Modern research is enabling us to find out which forms of nutrients are the most ‘bioavailable’, meaning that the body can absorb and use them straight away.
“Methylated B vitamins, like BioCare’s Methyl Multinutrient (£30.95 for 60 Capsules) are an excellent example of vitamins in their superior form, such as methylfolate and methylcobalamin as the most bioactive forms of folate (or folic acid) and B12 respectively.”
Consider the dose
“Look for whether the nutrients are provided at an effective baseline level per daily dosage, such as 400mcg methylfolate, 400mcg methylcobalamin or 1000 IU vitamin D3,” said Morris.
“You should also think about whether there’s a reason why you might require a higher dose.
“For example, a menstruating female may require much higher level of iron depending upon their diet and a vegan or vegetarian may require a higher level of vitamin B12.”
Think about the form
“Practicalities around administration of the product is very important,” said Morris.
“If you have difficulties swallowing large capsules or tablets, check the size provided by a particular supplement to make sure you will be able to swallow them easily.
“If you have poor digestion, consider taking a capsule multivitamin over a tablet form as they are easier to digest and absorb.
“By asking ourselves these questions we can decipher which would be the best format. We definitely don’t want to spend good money on a product that is ideal to support health requirements but unable to take it because of the taste or texture.”