Do I need vitamin supplements?

Most people can get all the vitamins and minerals they need by eating a healthy, balanced diet.

What are vitamins and minerals?

Vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients that your body needs in small amounts to work properly. For example:

  • iron has several important roles in your body – such as making red blood cells
  • calcium builds strong bones and teeth
  • vitamin C also has several important roles – such as keeping cells healthy 

When are supplements recommended?

Many people choose to take supplements, but taking too much or taking them for too long could be harmful. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends certain supplements for some groups of people who are at risk of deficiency, including: 

Folic acid supplements in pregnancy

All women thinking of having a baby should have a folic acid supplement, as should any pregnant women up to week 12 of her pregnancy. Folic acid can help to prevent neural tube defects, such as spina bifida

For more information, see vitamins and nutrition in pregnancy.

Vitamin D supplements

Vitamin D supplements should be taken by all pregnant and breastfeeding women, children aged six months to five years, and people aged 65 and over.

People who are not exposed to much sun – for example, people who are housebound (stay indoors) for long periods of time or cover up their skin when outdoors should also take vitamin D supplements.

For more information, see What does vitamin D do?

Supplements containing vitamins A, C and D

All children aged six months to five years should take a supplement containing vitamins A, C and D. This is a precaution because growing children may not get enough, especially those not eating a varied diet, such as fussy eaters. Ask your health visitor for advice, or for more information read our page on vitamins for children. You can get vitamin drops for free if you qualify for Healthy Start vitamins.

Your GP 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 tablets: salt advice

Effervescent (fizzy) vitamin supplements or effervescent painkillers can contain up to a gram of salt per tablet. Consider changing to a non-effervescent tablet, particularly if you have been advised to watch or reduce your salt intake. 

Find out how much salt is good for you.

For more information, read more questions about healthy eating.

Further information:

Media last reviewed: 07/01/2013

Next review due: 07/01/2015

Page last reviewed: 16/10/2014

Next review due: 15/10/2016