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Do I need vitamin supplements?

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 ironcalcium 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 could be harmful. The Department of Health recommends certain supplements for some groups of people who are at risk of deficiency. These are described below.

Folic acid supplements in pregnancy

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.

Read more about vitamins, supplements and nutrition in pregnancy.

Vitamin D supplements

The Department of Health recommends that everyone over the age of five (including pregnant and breastfeeding women) should consider taking a daily vitamin D supplement, particularly between October and March.

Some groups of the population are at greater risk of not getting enough vitamin D than others, including:

  • babies from birth to the age of one, (including breastfed babies and formula fed babies who have less than 500ml a day of infant formula)  
  • all children aged between one and four
  • people who aren't often outdoors – for example, those who are frail or housebound, in an institution such as a care home, or if they usually wear clothes that cover up most of their skin when outdoors

These people should take daily vitamin D supplements, to make sure they get enough.

Read more information about vitamin D.

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 of these vitamins – especially those not eating a varied diet, such as 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 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.

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 10/10/2016

Next review due: 10/10/2019