Most people don't need to take vitamin supplements and are able to get all the vitamins and minerals they need by eating a healthy, balanced diet.
Vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients, such as iron, calcium and vitamin C, that your body needs in small amounts to work properly.
Many people choose to take supplements, but taking too much or taking them for too long can be harmful. The Department of Health recommends certain supplements for some groups of people who are at risk of deficiency. These are described below.
All women thinking of having a baby should have a folic acid supplement, as should any pregnant woman up to week 12 of her pregnancy. Folic acid can help to prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida.
Some groups of the population are at greater risk of not getting enough vitamin D, and the Department of Health recommends these people take daily vitamin D supplements.
These groups are:
For the rest of the population, everyone over the age of 5 years (including pregnant and breastfeeding women) is advised to consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D.
But most people aged 5 years and above will probably get enough vitamin D from sunlight in the summer, so you might choose not to take a vitamin D supplement during this season.
All children aged 6 months to 5 years should take a supplement containing vitamins A, C and D. This is a precaution because growing children may not get enough of these vitamins, especially those not eating a varied diet – for example, fussy eaters.
Ask your health visitor for advice, or read more information on vitamins for children. You can get vitamin drops for free if you qualify for Healthy Start vitamins.
Your doctor may also recommend supplements if you need them for a medical condition. For example, you may be prescribed iron supplements to treat iron deficiency anaemia.
Effervescent vitamin supplements or effervescent painkillers can contain up to 1g of salt per tablet. Consider changing to a non-effervescent tablet, particularly if you have been advised to watch or reduce your salt intake.
Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.