Four vitamin supplements to take – and which to ditch


Dietary supplements are a multi-billion dollar industry but be careful what you spend your money on. ISTOCK
Dietary supplements are a multi-billion dollar industry but be careful what you spend your money on. ISTOCK
Some vitamin supplements offer questionable health benefits, so which ones are really worth the money, and which ones are better left on the shelf?

The wellness industry has exploded in the past decade.

It’s now worth an estimated US$4.2 trillion globally, according to the Global Wellness Economy Monitor – and to put that into perspective, that’s more than Australia and New Zealand’s GDP combined.

From the latest work-outs to ‘fit foods’, retreats, lotions, potions and that activewear we still can’t live without, we’re increasingly parting with our hard-earned cash in the pursuit of health and happiness.

And why not? We know that with the right diet, regular exercise and healthy lifestyle habits (we’re talking about you, sleep and stress), we can pave the way to a healthful future that lasts well into old age.

One of the areas that has seen the biggest growth is health supplementation, with the global market in dietary supplements valued at US$124.8 billion last year, according to US market research firm Reports and Data.

In New Zealand, a report by the Southern Cross Healthcare Group found over 1.5 million Kiwis regularly take health supplements – prompting University of Otago professor Jim Mann to caution in The New Zealand Herald that many vitamins were of questionable benefit.

So the question is, which health supplements should you spend and save your money on?


Most developed and developing world diets offer a good balance of vitamins and minerals, and as long as you’re eating a good supply of vegetables, fruit, protein and fibre, you shouldn’t need to top up very many of these.

A 2018 study by the University of Toronto and St. Michael’s Hospital reviewed research papers on common vitamin supplements over a five-year period, and discovered that the likes of multivitamins and stand-alone calcium and vitamin C offered little benefit to common health risks.

The verdict is, unless you’re on a full vegan diet, it’s better to save your money.


B Vitamins

The University of Toronto study also suggested that B vitamins such as B6, B12 and B9 (folic acid – beneficial to women trying for a baby or in early pregnancy) have been shown to support cardiovascular health.

B vitamin sources include legumes, nuts, seeds and animal products such as meats and dairy – so if you’re on a vegetarian or vegan diet, or don’t eat much of these, supplements can be a good idea.


According to the US National Library of Medicine, magnesium is essential to over 300 of the body’s biological processes. It’s vital for the body’s energy production, as well as the regulation of calcium, muscle function and heart health.

The body doesn’t produce its own magnesium, and because it can be hard to obtain this mineral at high enough levels in even healthy diets (you’d need to eat around three cups of whole wheat or steamed spinach to get the right amount daily), supplementation can be beneficial.


This is what you should reach for when you feel a winter chill coming on.

In numerous studies – including one from India’s Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research2 – the mineral zinc was found to support the body’s defences for ills and chills and support recovery.

So, what does that mean for most of us? Taking zinc when you feel a chill coming on should support the recovery and duration.

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)

This molecule is important for energy production within your cells, and it keeps free radicals in check. It’s something the body makes naturally in the mitochondria (the cells’ power factories) – but it can also be found in organ meats, leafy greens, legumes, nuts and seeds.

However, the body’s own levels of CoQ10 can diminish from the age of 30 onwards, as part of the natural ageing process, so supplementation can help to return the cells’ CoQ10 levels to normal.

Absorption is key here, and New Zealand supplement brand MitoQ contains the world’s only form of CoQ10 that can get inside the mitochondria hundreds of times more effectively than in its original form.

In fact, British healthcare group Bupa named MitoQ one of its ‘Top Smart Supplements’ in May this year, noting it for its unique ability to support cardiovascular health.

The other great thing about having healthy functioning mitochondria is that they enable your organs to make the most of any nutrients in food or supplement form that you’re putting into your body – so it’s a win-win.

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Vitamins and minerals are supplementary to, and not a replacement for, a balanced diet.

Always read the label and use as directed.

If symptoms persist, see your healthcare professional.


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