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Vitamins and supplements are not a waste for many – and here’s why

23 Mar 2020 4:28 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

A recent feature in the Daily Telegraph suggests that vitamins are a waste of money because people can get all the nutrition they need from a healthy diet. The article, Supplements No Magic Pill, But Play a Beneficial Role, is not only misleading, but it overlooks several factors. It ignores the many ways that people use supplements to meet their health needs – to bridge nutritional gaps yes, but they are also used preventively and therapeutically.

Australians use vitamins and supplements for a wide variety of reasons - not only to bridge nutritional gaps

1.      Bridging the gaps

A healthy mixed diet is the most critical factor in healthy nutrition, but many Australians don’t meet the recommended requirements. In 2014/15, almost half (49.8%) of adults aged 18 years and older reported consuming the recommended two or more servings of fruit daily while just 7.0% met the guideline for daily vegetable intake.1 Also, less than half of all Australian adults get their recommended daily intake of calcium.2 Vitamin D deficiency in Australia is said to affect over 30% of adults having a mild, moderate or severe deficiency according to Osteoporosis Australia, and which can be addressed through various means including safe sunlight, diet, and supplementation.3

2.      Preventive health

Various life stages alters the need for certain nutrients. Pregnancy, for example, increases the need for antenatal folic acid and in the first trimester. Folic acid and folate (the naturally occurring form) through dietary means and/or supplementation at the required dosage helps reduce the incidence of neural tube defects (NTDs). Women may also need to take extra calcium and iron in individual cases.

3.      Dietary choices and lifestyle factors

Vegetarians and vegans may benefit from supplementing with vitamin B12, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, iodine, iron, calcium and zinc. Increased stress, whether physical (such as intense exercise) or other may trigger increased excretion of magnesium and thus increased dietary need. Males aged 19 years and over are more likely than females of the same age group to have inadequate intakes (41% compared with 35%).6

Vitamin C and other antioxidant vitamins defend against free radicals, neutralising them and helping to prevent or minimise damage.7

4.      Correcting a deficiency

Nutritional deficiencies can occur for a variety of reasons. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the nutrients of particular concern for women include calcium, with three in four women not meeting requirements, as well as vitamin D and iron.8

5.      Offsetting losses caused by lifestyle or medication factors

Some healthcare professionals recommend particular nutrients that are indicated to address lowered levels associated when clinically indicated, also taking into account patient preference and choice.9

6.      Therapeutic uses – CoQ10

The antioxidant CoQ10 produces energy and stabilises cell membranes. The average Western diet provides around three to six milligrams per day10 (organ meats and oily fish are good sources). Clinical studies have used supplemental doses of 100mg daily or more. 

Researchers report that CoQ10 may have benefits for heart health.11 

CoQ10 has also been shown to benefit migraine patients in clinical studies taking 100 mg CoQ10 three times a day over the three month study period compared with those who took a placebo.12

7.      Therapeutic uses – omega-3s

One of the most investigated chemical groups are fish oils. Rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs), they may help to reduce inflammation in the body. Omega-3 fatty acids may benefit  heart health.13

1.5 g/day of EPA + DHA daily is equivalent to 100g of salmon.

Final word

As with all supplements, it is important for individuals to seek the advice of their healthcare practitioner. With much clinical research having occurred and still underway, many consumers choose to purchase complementary medicines due to a range of factors including personal awareness and choice and healthcare recommendation, and use them as part of their healthcare routine.


[1] https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/about-us/what-we-do/heart-disease-in-australia/fruit-and-vegetable-consumption-statistics

[2] https://osteoporosis.org.au/sites/default/files/files/Calcium%20Fact%20Sheet%202nd%20Edition.pdf 

[3] https://www.osteoporosis.org.au/vitamin-d

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2922396/) (https://www.elsevier.es/en-revista-porto-biomedical-journal-445-articulo-the-impact-folic-acid-supplementation-S2444866417300399)

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28545876)

[6] https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/4364.0.55.008~2011-12~Main%20Features~Magnesium~406


[8] https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/7-supplements-for-vegans

[9] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4149948/

[10] https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/dietary-factors/coenzyme-Q10

[11] https://www.longdom.org/open-access/coenzyme-q-for-cardiovascular-prevention-2329-6607.1000e125.pdf

[12] https://www.aan.com/PressRoom/Home/PressRelease/185

[13] https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/omega-3/art-20045614

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