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Trash your vitamins?

You always believed that it is important to take your vitamins. They make your skin glow, your hair shine and your nails strong. Oh, and you won't get flu in winter. Yes, vitamins are basically all that's knitting your body together.

But then, articles started appearing in the news about how vitamins and supplements don't really do anything for you at all. So what is a girl to do? Trash all of your shiny bottles of vitamins? Were they really doing you no good at all? It can't be true.

Unfortunately, it is, says Johannesburg general practitioner Isabel Thompson. Your body gets the nutrients it needs from the food that you eat even if your diet isn't particularly healthy. And Vitamin C does not prevent or treat the common cold.

She explains that vitamin supplements are mostly just expensive placebos that you don't really need. It's easy to believe that with your busy life, you aren't eating a proper diet and vitamins are the solution. However, an unbalanced diet is usually high in protein, refined carbohydrates and bad fats, and Dr Thompson points out that vitamins won't undo the damage you are doing to your health with these foods. . She advises that fresh, home-cooked meals made up of lots of vegetables are the best way to get all the nutrients you need.

Even so, there are some vitamins or supplements that doctors do prescribe to treat particular ailments. Dr Thompson says that it is only really useful to take these if you actually have the condition and the results are being monitored by your doctor.

These include:

Omega 3 oils for high cholesterol
If you have high cholesterol, you should be under the care of a doctor. Omega 3 oils may have some benefits in helping to reduce bad cholesterol (the jury is out), and regular testing will let you know if this is working.

Calcium for bone density
If you have any of the early signs of osteoporosis or a family history of the disease, a doctor may recommend a calcium supplement. In all likelihood, this should only be a concern when you are in your forties. Taking a calcium supplement for your entire adult life will not prevent osteoporosis

Iron for anaemia
If you are weak, pale and short of breath, your doctor may test your iron levels. If you have an iron deficiency, you will be prescribed an iron supplement. There is no point in taking iron if you don't have anaemia, because it can be hard on your liver. Women can also suffer from vitamin B anaemia and folic acid anaemia. The appropriate supplement will be prescribed by a doctor and its effects should be tested.

While trashing your supplements may provide great relief to your bank balance, many women feel that their daily doses of vitamins and minerals really do make a difference in their lives. And that, says Dr Thompson, is perfectly fine. If you feel that they make your eyes brighter and give you a spring in your step, then there's no harm in taking them, just remember to drink lots of water not tea or coffee or juice to wash them down.

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