Vitamins - What do we really know?

Author: talkhealth

Date: JUL 2017

Most UK adults admit that they don’t know where vitamins come from or even why they’re good for you. That’s despite nearly half of Brits now using vitamin and mineral supplements.

UK consumers are more confused than ever when it comes to vitamin consumption. A new survey of 2000 people reveals that 68% could not name the correct sources of vitamins A and E. The research, commissioned by the British Fruit Juice Association (BFJA) also shows on average 63% could not correctly identify the benefits of key vitamins A, E and even C.

The study also looked at how parental knowledge of nutrition affected the diets of children. Dads’ knowledge tended to be worse than mums with an average of 10% believing that vitamins A, B, C, D and E had no purpose in the body whatsoever.

While the latest Mintel report shows 46% of people now use vitamin and mineral supplements,1 when it comes to actual knowledge around these nutrients, Brits are clearly woefully deficient.

"Supplements shouldn't be used as an antidote to a poor diet. Taking an interest in different foods, what they contain and why they are good for you can help you make healthier choices which will benefit the health of you and your family" says leading Dietician Dr Sarah Schenker.
The BFJA research also revealed that although a daily 150ml portion of pure fruit juice counts as one of your five-a-day, 17% of parents said they never give their children pure fruit juice and a substantial majority (94%) of parents surveyed did not know that a 150ml glass of orange juice contains all your Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of vitamin C.

Dr Sarah Schenker continued, "Fruits and vegetables are a major source of many of the essential vitamins we need to keep our bodies healthy and they have the advantage of providing other nutrients that can benefit our health. Incorporating more fruit and veg into your children's diet is easier than you might think, for example, a 150ml glass of fruit juice a day counts as a single portion Pure fruit juice can also help fussy eaters become accustomed to the taste of fruit and vegetables, helping lead to long-term positive food choices."

In order to help people boost their natural vitamin intake, Dr Schenker has created the following tips:

Vitamin C
"Vitamin C acts as a powerful antioxidant in the body protecting cells from damage from oxidation processes in the body. It is an important nutrient for the immune system which fights off invading bacteria and viruses and protects against disease. Vitamin C is needed for healthy skin as it is involved in the production of collagen, a protein needed for wound healing. It also has an important role in helping the body to absorb iron from plant foods such as cereals and pulses.
The richest sources of vitamin C include citrus fruit (oranges and grapefruits) and their juices, peppers and kiwi fruit. Other good sources include broccoli, berries, melon, tomatoes and potatoes.”

Vitamin A
"One form of vitamin A is beta carotene which acts as antioxidant in the body and is especially important for healthy skin as it is able to scavenge and neutralise free radicals. Free radicals can cause damage to skin cells and our skin is exposed to free radicals in the environment from cigarette smoke, air pollution, and ultraviolet light from the sun. Beta carotene is the red-orange pigment that gives fruit and vegetables their bright colours. It can be converted into vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A has an essential role in the immune system and is needed for the healthy growth of the body's cells.

The richest sources of beta-carotene are colourful fruit and vegetables such as carrots, peppers, tomatoes, mangoes, apricots, butternut squash. Green leafy veg such as watercress and spinach also provide plenty of beta carotene.”

Vitamin D
"Vitamin D is essential for good bone health as it helps the body to absorb calcium form food. Vitamin D plays an important role in the immune system and is essential for maintaining a good balance of healthy bacteria in the gut which is needed for healthy digestion.
Sources of vitamin D include fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel, in fact these are among the best sources. Beef liver, butter, cheese and egg yolks also provide small amounts. Mushrooms can provide vitamin D if they are exposed to ultraviolet light.

Most vitamin D is obtained through the action of sunlight on skin during the summer months. The latitude and strength of the sun in the UK means that the skin can make vitamin D only between 11 am and 3 pm, during the months of April to October.”

Vitamin E
"Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant crucial for preventing free radical damage.

Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin so it is found in nuts, seeds, avocados, healthy oils and wholegrains. It is also found in green leafy veg such as kale.”

"Folate is a B vitamin needed by the body to make DNA and other genetic material. Folate is needed for the body's cells to divide. The best sources are vegetables, fruit and juices, especially oranges and orange juice. A 150ml of fruit juice provides about a quarter of the recommended daily amount."

Case Study:

Name: Sandra
Age: 41
Occupation: Communications Account Director
Children: three children aged 8, 6 and 3

Sandra is aware of all the different vitamins her children should be having but is confused about the best sources of each one and also the benefits that each individual vitamin provides. She chooses to give her children daily vitamin supplements as she likes the ‘insurance policy’ they provide. She would like clear and simple advice on vitamin benefits and sources to help her better choose and prepare the meals and snacks she gives her young children.

Dietician Dr Sarah Schenker comments:
"Using a vitamin supplement as an 'insurance policy' is fine, but don't let it become an excuse for an unhealthy diet. Use shopping trips to the supermarket as a way of engaging the children with healthy food. For instance, look for sources of different vitamins such as orange juice for vitamin C, mushrooms for vitamin D, avocados for vitamin E so they start to understand the important of a varied diet. This will help them to enjoy their food and develop long term healthy eating habits."


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Last revised: 25th July 2017

Next review: 25th July 2020