It was recently revealed that getting more vitamin D could reduce the risk of dying from cancer – yet up to 75 per cent of Brits are deficient in the vital vitamin.
Clinical trials of 79,000 people, with an average age of 68, showed those given vitamin D tablets instead of a placebos were 13 per cent less likely to develop cancer and die from it.
Lead researcher Tarek Haykal, of Michigan State University, said: “I would like to see more oncologists and primary care doctors prescribing vitamin D for their patients, as it carries many benefits with minimal side-effects.”
Yet it is not just Vitamin D that carries huge health benefits.
Ensuring we get all the vital vitamins our bodies need can help boost life expectancy and fend of a host of health problems.
Harley Street nutritionist Alice Mackintosh said: “These vitamins make the body work properly – we are completely reliant on them to function.
“Being deficient in one vitamin is not going to kill you, but many people are deficient in lots of them.
“They all work together, so it is vital we get them all. They are so important to keep our bodies working properly – especially in the long term and as we age.
“That’s why variety in the diet is so important, because it delivers all of these vitamins.
“Making sure we have them all leads to better vitality – more energy, better brain health, mood, concentration and memory, a healthier immune system, better hormone health, healthy organ function for our livers, kidneys and lungs.
“They keep the body working properly, the way it is designed to.”
Here Alice looks at the vital vitamins we need to function, how to get ensure we get them all and how they help us live longer, healthier, happier lives.
Vitamin C has so many important roles in the body – but in particular it’s needed to help keep our heart and lungs healthy, boost our immune system, keep veins and arteries healthy and lift our energy levels up.
It’s so good for heart and lungs, and aids life expectancy because it helps us bounce back from things such as flu or pneumonia.
We can get Vitamin C from all colourful vegetable and fruit – especially the darker ones such as berries, chard, kale and red peppers.
Supplements can help if you’re run down or have a cold.
But cheap Vitamin C supplements are usually made from ascorbic acid. It’s best to take calcium sorbate, which is less acidic and absorbs more easily.
RDA: Varies for each
There are a few different types – B1, B2, B3, B5, B6 and B12.
They’re predominantly needed for energy production and brain health, mood and concentration.
They are also important for liver health and helping our blood flow around the body properly – as well as taking care of muscles, joints and nerves.
Low energy levels are one of the main reasons people start to decline as they get older. B vitamins are very important for that. They also keep our cells functioning properly.
You’ll find them in lots of foods, but B12 is only found in meat, fish and eggs – so if you’re vegan, you may want to take a supplement.
The rest are also found in beans and pulses, nuts and seeds and whole grains such as oats, rice, pasta, wholemeal bread and quinoa, kale and spinach.
People can be deficient in some B vitamins, so a varied diet is best. Marmite is a great source.
Vitamin E is a very important antioxidant in the body and aids good skin health.
It helps the body recycle vitamin A and C – they all work together.
Because it’s a good antioxidant, it is good for cardiovascular health and eye health, especially as we age.
It is also anti-inflammatory, so may help with risks linked to cardiovascular health – heart attacks and strokes, for example.
It is found in fatty foods, such as nuts, avocados, oils and seeds.
There is a bit of controversy around Vitamin E in supplements – it’s believed it can increase cancer risk in some people if they take too much. So it’s definitely one that is better to get from your diet.
Like B, there are different types of Vitamin K – K1 is abundant in our diet as it’s in all vegetables and all fruit.
It is a natural blood thinner, so is vital to keep blood healthy, preventing clots.
It is also very important for bones.
A deficiency can lead to problems with bone health, the cardiovascular system and blood clotting.
The good news is that it’s not a vitamin that is commonly deficient, because of being in a lot of foods – particularly green vegetables, tofu and eggs.
Vitamin K2, found mainly in meats and dairy, is very important for hormone health.
Vitamin A is needed for your immune system and is especially important when it comes to lung health and a healthy digestive system. It also helps fertility.
You can get Vitamin A from animal sources – things such as egg yolk, full fat dairy, liver, oily fish and butter.
Or you can find a different form called beta-carotene in peppers, carrots, oranges and butternut squash. The body converts this form into Vitamin A as it needs.
Vegan diets might be short on Vitamin A, so supplements may help – but you need only a small amount.
Pregnant women in particular can have too much of the vitamin, so do be careful if you’re expecting.
Recommend Daily allowance: 10 mcg a day.
Vitamin D is more of a hormone than a vitamin. It is needed to regulate thousands of different bodily processes. It helps boost immunity, mood and good mental health and aids bone health, heart health and cardiovascular health.
Getting enough Vitamin D can help prevent diabetes and osteoporosis – it definitely helps boost life expectancy.
We get it from sunlight, but many people have office jobs or wear SPF – they are not out active in their gardens at the weekend, so they are often not exposing their skin to enough sunlight.
To boost your levels, get Vitamin D from oily fish, egg yolk or mushrooms. You will not get enough Vitamin D from your diet – it does also need to come from sunlight.
Supplements can help during the winter months, make sure they include D3 and ideally take between 1000 and 5000 IU.
RDA 0.8 – 1mg a day.
Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate – which is the natural form found in food, that we really need,” says Alice. “It is needed for hormone health, brain health, liver function and for healthy circulation. It is found in avocado, berries, green vegetables, beetroot, courgettes, beans and eggs.
Most supplements contain folic acid, not folate. The body copes much better with folate, which is found in good supplements, but better taken in with a varied diet.
- Alice Mackintosh is co-founder of award-winning supplement brand, Equi London