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Introduction

Given that much of the marketing surrounding them seems to play on our desire for wellbeing, some people are understandably cautious about vitamins. However, there are a number of exceptions to the rule that healthy eating is the best way to get all the vitamins and minerals we need, and dietary supplements can be of benefit to many people. Those who choose vitamins need to know exactly what is in the products they take.

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A vitamin a day keeps the doctor away?

Some people argue that the traditional apple will do a better job. Fruit and vegetables have much more varied benefits than one-dimensional vitamin supplements. For example, a vitamin C supplement is usually made of asorbic acid, whereas food with vitamin C also contains other micronutrients, such as tyrosinase, which play an important role in the prevention of disease. Vitamin C in food also contains bioflavonoids which help the body to absorb the vitamin itself. Similarly, some vitamin B supplements are manufactured from coal tar, which does not work as effectively as natural sources of the vitamin, such as wheat germ.

Therefore, a balanced diet remains the best way to enhance your health, and vitamin supplements shouldn’t be used to make up for bad eating habits. But what if you don’t get the recommended five portions of fruit and veg a day? Most doctors agree that taking a low dose multi-vitamin and mineral supplement won’t do any harm, and will probably have some benefits. After all, vitamins are essential for a healthy and active lifestyle. Problems only arise if you exceed the recommended dosage.

Vitamin supplements are, however, most beneficial if you have special health needs or a particular gap in your diet. Pregnant women, for example, can benefit from taking folic acid supplements, and it is particularly important for adolescents to get the proper intake of calcium, making a supplement worthwhile if they don’t receive the recommended amount through their diet. Advertisements and health editorials commonly target vegetarians and vegans as those who are most in need of supplements. However, both the Vegan and Vegetarian societies argue that a healthy, mixed diet should provide all the nutrients we need.

Ingredients

When the Food Commission conducted a survey into additives it was shocked by the numbers contained in supplements, as well as by the lack of clear labelling of ingredients. Its survey found a colouring in Redoxon which is banned in virtually all foods. Artificial sweeteners, aspartame and sorbitol, as well as talcum powder, silicon dioxide and anti-caking agents were found in some other supplements. More
worryingly, an earlier government survey discovered higher-than-permitted levels of lead and arsenic in a number of supplements. Although the government did not at the time conclude that the products posed a significant risk, manufacturers were required to change their formulations.

Information on how supplements should be labelled, and safe dosage levels, are available at www.food.gov.uk.

Packaging

Many vitamin pills are vastly overpackaged. Some products, such as Seven Seas, are packaged in an outer box as well as the vitamin bottle, while Perfectil vitamins go even further by packaging each individual pill in its own bubble pack.

The majority of vitamin bottles are also made from plastic, although a few brands use glass. Viridian is the only company offering recycling of its bottles. People can return their empty Viridian glass bottle to the place of purchase, and receive a 25p refund when it is taken for recycling. The company also makes a charity donation for every sale.

Ethical Comparison – Vitamins Rankings Detailed Table

 

Health&Beauty_Vitamins_Long Table (RESIZED)

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Buy our detailed Ethical Research Reports. See the findings behind companies’ ethical ratings, as featured in The Good Shopping Guide. Several different product sectors available covering hundreds of consumer brands.

We have created ethical comparison rankings for the following brands, based on the activities of the company group (see above tables): Neal’s Yard Remedies, Viridian, Boots, FSC, GNC, Holland & Barrett, Perfectil, Quest, Red Kooga, Seven Seas, Centrum, Solgar, Sanatogen, Redoxon

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