The term ‘vitamins’ has garnered a significantly increased level of attention in the UK recently judging from Google Trend data, albeit the search term tends to encompass the bigger supplement range of essential vitamins, minerals and amino acids. When searching online, do you consider if you are taking the right vitamins for your lifestyle?
The global dietary supplements market size was estimated at £98.54 billion last year, with a growth of 8.2 per cent forecasted by 2027.
It seems that as a population, we’re becoming more conscious about our health and improving our lifestyle, whether this is by achieving cleaner air through reducing greenhouse gas emissions, eating a healthy balanced diet, or improving the health of our bodily functions. Taking pro-active responsibility for our own health and nutrition is a driving force in the current consumer market, rather than believing the NHS and a visit to our GP is the panacea to all ailments.
But whether we are looking for supplements such as vitamin C & vitamin D to help build our immune system, magnesium supplements to aid normal muscle function, vitamin B12 (often lacking in vegan diets) to avoid folate deficiency anaemia, or any of a multitude of other vitamins, minerals and amino acids, we need to ensure we take quality, bio-available supplements.
But you also need to consider if you taking the right vitamins for your lifestyle.
It’s understandable that we’re becoming more conscious of our health, given the volume of pollutants emitted into our atmosphere every year, the qualtity of artificial ingredients in our food, the mineral-depleted soils our food is grown, and the distance ‘fresh’ food travels before it reaches the stores.
But it is also important to understand our lifestyles to determine what our bodies are most in need of, and how we can keep our bodily functions running at optimum performance.
As much as possible, we should aim to obtain as many essential nutrients as possible from our food and adopting a Mediterranean Diet can help us do that. But sometimes other aspects of our life take over and fitting all the right vitamins and nutrients into our diet alone can be difficult.
Depending on our lifestyle, we might need an extra boost from the right supplements alongside a balanced diet.
Here, we will take a look at a few vitamins that you may wish to consider according to your lifestyle and other external considerations such as where you live and work:
We all know that we need to reduce carbon emissions because of climate change, but we also need to consider the impact pollution has on our wellbeing.
The air we are breathing in is dangerously polluted and even with the push to reduce emissions, it generally continues to rise.
During the lockdown, one of the positive outcomes was a significant improvement in air quality as car use dropped to around a third of normal levels and flights were almost non-existent. However, although flights are still reduced, car use is increasing as people avoid public transport, and air quality is once again deteriorating rapidly.
According to WHO, (World Health Organisation) around 4.6 million people die each year from air pollution, and 90 per cent of the world’s population live in areas where pollution exceeds safety guidelines and the long-term effects on our bodies can be extremely harmful.
Even in the UK, pollution levels vary dramatically and many towns and cities have pollution levels far above WHO recommendations, but you can find out if you live in a polluted area by postcode via this BBC webpage.
Research in 2017 has suggested that taking the right vitamins such as vitamin B6 and B12 if you live in a seriously polluted area could protect your DNA from heritable damage caused by breathing in miniscule particles.
Researchers investigated PM2.5, fine particulate pollutants that lodge in our organs, and found that when given large doses of B vitamin supplementation, the effect of PM2.5 on DNA damage was limited between 28-76 per cent.
Although more research is needed, researcher Jia Zhong said:
“I think that B vitamins are a likely hope that we can potentially utilise as an individualised treatment to complement the policy regulations to minimise the impacts of air pollution.”
B vitamins play a vital role in maintaining good health and wellbeing, including promoting healthy cell growth, preventing infections, enhancing energy levels, and brain function.
When in a hotter climate, your body has to work harder to keep up with the higher temperature — your heart rate increases, you sweat more water and essential minerals, your blood thickens, and your immune cell function may be inhibited — leading to illness susceptibility.
While the UK is not generally a hot climate, we increasingly have extremely hot periods and therefore this is something we should take heed of during those steamy summer days.
To avoid overexerting yourself, research has shown that vitamin C can help the body’s physiological response to stress as well as preserve immune functioning, reduce the chances of developing heat-related illnesses such as heat rash and exhaustion, as well as cut down the amount of time it takes for your body to acclimatise to the heat.
Furthermore, heat exacerbates the effects of pollution, so vitamin B may be beneficial in this respect too.
Similarly, when in a cold country, you are likely exposed to less sunlight and the days are darker and shorter in the winter, therefore you are probably lacking vitamin D.
Vitamin D is essential for healthy teeth, bone, and muscle growth, and regulating calcium in the body. Our bodies struggle to get vitamin D from food alone, so sunlight is a primary source. A vitamin D deficiency could lead to bone deformities and pain like rickets.
In the UK, from late March/early April to the end of September, most people should be able to get enough vitamin D from sunlight by allowing the body 20 minutes uncovered exposure to the sun, avoiding midday sunshine. But even the NHS suggests vitamin D supplementation during the winter months.
BAME communities are particularly prone to vitamin D deficiency as their thicker skin does not absorb as much vitamin D from the sunshine as white-skinned people. This deficiency may be part of the reason they are more prone to COVID-19.
Thirdly, if you’re an office worker, you’re probably sat at a desk all day with minimal movement apart from typing, heading to the kitchen for a cup of tea or coffee, or when you go to a meeting or the loo. The nine to five day can take its toll on our bodies, even if you are working from a home office, with joint pain and arthritis common complaints among office workers.
Omega-3 is well established in research as effective against inflammatory joint pain and arthritis, therefore appropriate supplementation of Omega-3 fatty acids can help alleviate the pain or mitigate the effects, as well as support eye health which is important when you’re sitting staring at a screen all day straining your eyes.
It is important to remember than when supplementing with vitamins, you must have a healthy diet to reap the benefits — it is not a total replacement, and you need to ensure you are taking the right vitamins for your lifestyle.
If you are concerned about your health, please visit your GP.
Whyand, T., Hurst, J.R., Beckles, M. and Caplin, M.E., 2018. Pollution and respiratory disease: can diet or supplements help? A review. Respiratory research, 19(1), p.79.
Zhong, J., Karlsson, O., Wang, G., Li, J., Guo, Y., Lin, X., Zemplenyi, M., Sanchez-Guerra, M., Trevisi, L., Urch, B. and Speck, M., 2017. B vitamins attenuate the epigenetic effects of ambient fine particles in a pilot human intervention trial. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 114(13), pp.3503-3508.
Carrillo, A.E., Murphy, R.J. and Cheung, S.S., 2008. Vitamin C supplementation and salivary immune function following exercise-heat stress. International journal of sports physiology and performance, 3(4), pp.516-530.
Goldberg, R.J. and Katz, J., 2007. A meta-analysis of the analgesic effects of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation for inflammatory joint pain. Pain, 129(1-2), pp.210-223.