Vitamin & mineral supplements – top picks
The majority of clients that I see in the community after a major trauma, are not getting sufficient levels of vitamins and minerals from their food intake in order to meet their minimum requirements. This is because many clients consume very few vegetables, fruit, nuts, legumes and whole grains.
Food is always the best source of nutrients, because in addition to providing important vitamins and minerals, it also provides fibre, macronutrients (protein, fat, carbohydrates) and electrolytes (eg. potassium) which are all needed for good health. Vegetables, fruit, nuts, legumes and whole grains also provide plant chemicals that help fight inflammation and prevent or repair cell damage. For clients who are not already consuming these types of foods, changing their eating habits and routines sufficiently can take some time. In the interim, a multivitamin and mineral supplement can help bridge the gap towards meeting their minimum nutrient requirements.
But which supplement should your clients choose? Most GP’s are no longer allowed to prescribe multivitamin and mineral supplements because these can be purchased over-the-counter. Yet there are literally hundreds of vitamin and mineral supplements on the market, all with differing compositions. Some are far too high in some nutrients, while missing out on other important nutrients altogether. Do you know what to look for?
Top tips for choosing a vitamin and mineral supplement:
1. If you are worried about deficiencies, get a blood test first.
Most clients after a major trauma are low in iron, folate and/or vitamin D. I recommend that these levels be tested in all clients so that deficiencies can be corrected with prescribed, therapeutic doses if required (for the full list of blood tests that I recommend please click HERE). Over-the-counter supplements are sufficient to maintain nutrient levels, but won’t usually contain enough to correct a deficiency in a timely fashion. If someone starts taking a multivitamin and mineral supplement before the blood test, this can skew the results, so make sure the blood test is done first.
2. Look for A-Z brands.
Multivitamin and mineral supplements are usually the best choice if someone’s diet is low in vegetables, fruit, nuts, legumes and whole grains. Make sure it contains both vitamins AND minerals and look for brands that contain over 20 different nutrients. Avoid taking supplements that contain just one vitamin or mineral unless advised to do so by a health professional (calcium, vitamin D and magnesium would be the exceptions to this). This is because vitamins and minerals must be consumed in a very precise balance in order to work optimally – too much of one can interfere with the absorption of another.
3. Make sure the supplement has 10 mcg vitamin D.
Everyone in the UK should be taking 10mcg vitamin D between October and April. People who are indoors much of the time, or vigilant about wearing sunscreen, should be taking this amount year-round. Very few multivitamin and minerals supplements meet this criteria, so check labels carefully.
4. Check with the GP.
Clients on certain medications, such as Warfarin or Accutane, must avoid supplements containing certain nutrients (eg. vitamin K and vitamin A respectively) and so special vitamin and mineral supplements will be required in these instances. To avoid potential interactions, make sure the GP is aware of any over-the-counter supplements that your client is taking.
Suggested brands and what to look for…
Adults should look for supplements which contain these vitamins and minerals in roughly these amounts.
A multivitamin and mineral supplement will never contain 100% of a person’s requirements for calcium or magnesium as to do so, the supplement would need to be so big that no one could take it. These will require a separate supplement if dietary intake is not adequate.
A few brands which are very close to meeting the above criteria include:
For more information on vitamin and mineral supplements after a major trauma, or to make a referral for a dietetic assessment, contact Specialist Nutrition Rehab at 07787 603863 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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