How do people know which food supplements can benefit them?

It’s not easy for people to tell if they’re getting all the nutrients they need from food, therefore many people choose to take a supplement, such as a multivitamin and mineral, to top up any nutrient shortfalls in their diet and ensure they still achieve recommended daily nutrient intakes.

Fish oil supplements can also help people who do not eat the recommended one portion of oily fish a week[1] to achieve the recommended omega-3 intake.

For specific groups of people who are particularly at risk of deficiency or who need higher intakes of certain nutrients, the Department of Health recommends some supplements[2]:

  • Folic acid supplements for all women who are thinking of having a baby or trying to conceive, and pregnant women up to week 12 of the pregnancy to help prevent neural tube defects such as Spina Bifida in the unborn foetus[3].
  • Vitamin D supplements of 10µg (micrograms) for all adults and children through the autumn and winter months.
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women,  children aged six months to five years, people aged 65 and over, people with darker skin as well as people who may not get enough sun, for example those who cover up for cultural reasons or who are housebound should all take a vitamin D supplement of 10µg throughout the year.
  • A supplement containing vitamins A, C and D for all children aged six months to five years as a precaution because growing children may not get enough, especially those not eating a varied diet, such as fussy eaters.


In addition, people with particular medical conditions may be recommended or prescribed supplements by their GP.

[1] Fish and shellfish

[2] Do I need vitamin supplements?

[3] Vitamins, supplements and nutrition in pregnancy