Why you should take supplements in the 21st Century – Top 10 Reasons.

The size of the UK supplement manufacturing industry has tripled in the past ten years to over £1.4 billion in 2022. Today, I’m going to look at 10 Reasons why you should take supplements in the 21st Century.

The sale of supplements within the UK itself reached almost half a billion pounds in 2021.

So, is this a good investment for our health or is it just “expensive urine” (1)?

Covid-19 was a wake-up call for many people, realising that a healthy body creates greater resilience to protect against disease. But even prior to this event, the UK population had steadily been spending more and more on supplements in the past decade than ever before. Whilst the sales are a disappointing fifteen times less than the sale of chocolate (!), it is still a staggering sum of money.

But surely a healthy diet provides all the nutrition we need? I’ve heard this said so many times. In theory, that should be true and it certainly was earlier in the last century.

Why you should take supplements - Top 10 Reasons

Here are ten reasons why supplementing your diet is a good investment for your health.

1. Intensive Farming Practices

Why you should supplement - Intensive Farming

Intensive farming practices have resulted in a dramatic fall in the mineral content of the soil.

The data on mineral levels in vegetables between 1930 and 198 shows a decline in calcium levels by 46%, copper by 76%, sodium by 49%, iron by 27% and magnesium by 24%. These are significant reductions!

Our diets today can rarely meet the nutritional status of our parents. The use of chemical fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides has increased dramatically and this puts a greater burden on the liver- our organ of detoxification.

2. Vegetables and Fruit are picked, stored and travel long distances.

Why you should supplement - Fruit & Veg Quality

As soon as plants are picked, the nutritional content starts to decrease. In order to meet consumer demand (both volume and choice), many supermarket fruit and vegetables are grown in other parts of the world and flown in to the UK.

The length of time that plants are harvested, stored and delivered to your table can be anywhere between 10 days and 10 weeks! The greater the time between harvesting and eating the plants, the greater the
decline in the nutritional content. This is especially true of water-soluble vitamin C and B vitamins.

3. Use of chemicals

Why you should supplement - Pesticides

Pesticides and herbicides damage the delicate ecosystem of microorganisms in the soil like bacteria and fungi. These microorganisms enrich the soil with nitrogen, phosphate and minerals and encourage nutrient uptake by plants (vegetables). It is yet another reason why the mineral content in plants is
significantly less today compared to the middle of the 20th century.

4. Food Manufacturing Industry

Why yolu should supplement - Processed Food

Many foods we eat today have been processed (lightly or intensively) and each process can lead to a reduction in the nutritional content of each ingredient. This is particularly true for refined grains found in most processed foods (think pies, pizza, pasta).

The nutritional content such as B vitamins and magnesium are found in the outer husk (the part if included is called “wholegrain”) and these are removed when grains are refined and turned white.

Heating, pasteurizing, canning, freezing, dehydrating foods (and other procedures) can reduce their nutritional content. Not just vitamins, but specific plant compounds known as phytonutrients that are known to pass on their benefits to humans.

5. Stressful Lifestyles

Why you should supplement - Stress Lifestyle

Modern lifestyles are increasingly stressful, demanding and busy. Stress utilises significant reserves of Vitamin C, zinc, B vitamins and magnesium (to manufacture the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline). It is not surprising that it is these nutrients that are often top of my list of recommendations.

It can be impossible from a typical daily diet to obtain sufficient intake of these nutrients to meet the body’s total demands. The stress hormones won’t necessarily suffer, but other parts of your body can – and do!

6. Poor Eating Habits

Why you should supplement - Poor Eating Habits

Few people appreciate the importance of prioritising eating as an activity. By this I mean properly sitting down to eat mindfully, chewing food well. This activates digestive secretions to effectively break down food into its smallest components for absorption into the bloodstream. If this is not performed well,
some vital nutrition can pass through the gut and be eliminated.

Taking time to eat your meals can and does help and is one important element, but unfortunately, it can not overcome all these other vital factors.

7. Mineral Depleters

Why you should supplement - Coffee & Tea

Our dietary food and drink choices usually include compounds that can inhibit mineral uptake from the gut into the bloodstream. Your diet may seem healthy and rich with fruit and vegetables, yet if there are compounds that bind to minerals, it can excrete them from the body.

Think about your iron, zinc, magnesium and calcium levels. You may be limiting the availability for your
body by consuming mineral depleters .

Foods and drinks to watch are tannins and caffeine in tea and coffee (avoid drinking close to meals); phosphatic acid in sparkling canned drinks (best avoided); phytates in grains (sourdough and sprouted grains are better choices) and in pulses (try to avoid eating these daily); and oxalates in rhubarb and spinach (cooked is better).

8. Medications

Why you should supplement - Medication

Certain medications increase the need for certain nutrients. Ladies if you take
the pill, there is a greater need for zinc. Aspirin increases the requirement for
vitamin C. Certain blood pressure medications may increase the need for
potassium. Stomach acid suppressors (like protein pump inhibitors) may
reduce the availability of minerals in the body (like iron and calcium). Check
your product labels or do your research carefully

9. Antibiotics

Why you should supplement - Antibiotics

Without any doubt, antibiotics harm the commensal beneficial bacteria in the gut. They are not specific to only destroy harmful bacteria. Some research suggests it may take two years to repopulate your gut with beneficial bacteria.

Some research suggests that certain bacteria never recover. The role of pre and probiotics has taken off in the past decade – and rightly so.

10. Smoking and Alcohol Consumption

Why you should supplement - Smoking & Drinking

Smoking significantly increases the requirement for vitamin C and beta-carotene, possibly by up to twice the intake as a non-smoker. Tobacco always contains cadmium that displaces zinc and selenium.

Alcohol can deplete certain B vitamins, zinc, magnesium and potassium through its diuretic effect.

So, should you take supplements as part of your diet?

I highly recommend an optimal plant-rich diet, as a sensible approach to optimise your health. And a high-quality multi-vitamin and mineral supplement. You can potentially add a high strength probiotic.

This can decrease your risk of developing health conditions now or in later life. A nutrient-insufficiency condition can take years off your life.


(1) https://www.nutri-link.co.uk/resources/expensive-urine-or-effective-triage/

More reading:

Top 5 Supplements for women over 40

5 Supplements to support men’s health

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Gut Health Nutritionist Caroline Peyton Principles
Caroline is a Professional Nutritionist, Naturopath based in Wiltshire.

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