The dietary supplements industry in the UK is worth hundreds of millions of pounds and market research suggests that around half of all Britons take extra vitamins and minerals.
If you’re trying to lose weight, get clearer skin, de-stress or improve your general health you will know that there are countless supplements available that claim to fix just about any ailment.
But how do you know which ones to trust?
A panel of experts including a nutritionist, a pharmacist and a psychologist has helped to come up with a definitive list of the 24 best supplements for women.
The experts joined forces with Women’s Health magazine to decide which supplements are safe and effective and where to buy them, whatever your goals are.
Nicole Sapstead, chief executive of UK Anti-Doping, told the magazine: ‘If you are considering taking a supplement make sure you assess the need first by speaking to a qualified nutritionist.’
Millions of people in the UK take dietary supplements for a range of reasons including to aid weight loss, to improve their health or to help with specific medical problems
Experts on the panel were: pharmacist and natural health specialist, Shabir Daya; nutritional physiologist Rick Hay; psychologist and nutritional therapist Dr Christy Ferguson; author and women’s health expert Dr Marilyn Glenville; supplements and sport nutrition expert Aul Chamberlain; and Sunil Kochhar, the agony uncle at DearPharmacist.
It is important to consult your doctor before starting to regularly take any new supplements.
Their top 24 recommended supplements are:
Fish oil is known for its Omega benefits and the Ultra Omega-3 contains nutrients which maintain wellbeing, vision and brain function, and contribute to normal heart function. Available for £10.49 from Boots.
Ultra Omega-3 fish oil capsules contain fatty acids and vitamin E. www.boots.com
Medium-chain triglycerides, known as MCT, are types of man-made fats often produced from palm and coconut oils.
They can be used to control weight loss as part of an exercise regime because they are used up quickly by the body, and athletes use them to improve endurance and build muscle.
Available from £16.99 from MyProtein.
Medium-chain triglycerides can help with weight loss and muscle gain as part of an exercise regime. www.myprotein.com
Iron is an essential and common mineral but a deficiency can make you feel tired. It is not unusual for teenagers and young adults, and pregnant or menstruating women to be in need of more than they are getting from their diet, especially if they don’t eat much meat.
Iron helps blood to transport oxygen through the body. Available from £10.99 from Holland Barratt.
Iron supplements can boost energy by getting more oxygen to the brain. www.hollandandbarrett.com
L-Tyrosine is an amino acid and can help with a poorly functioning thyroid. People use to aid with weight loss, bad skin and stress problems.
A medical professional should be consulted before using it. Available from £12.50 from Solgar Online.
L-Tyrosine is an amino acid which can help with weight loss. www.solgaronline.co.uk
Taken to increase energy levels, Co-enzyme Q10 is found naturally in the body and contains vitamin B6 which contributes to reducing tiredness. People take Q10 for an energy boost, and it can improve athletic endurance and sperm motility.
Available from £16.99 from Superfood UK.
Ubiquinol Qu10 can be used for an energy boost or to reduce fatigue. www.superfooduk.com
Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is a natural source of sulphur and is taken to try to improve the quality of people’s hair because it stimulates the body to create keratin and collagen. It also helps to build and repair the body’s cartilage. Available from £11.25 from Solgar.
MSM helps to repair hair and cartilage. www.solgaronline.co.uk
Selenium works with the thyroid to act on hormones which control metabolism. Supplements can boost this process and speed up your metabolism, which can help with weight loss. Selenium is an important thing to look for if you want a metabolism-boosting pill. Available from £8.26 from Superfood UK.
Selenium can help boost your metabolism by working with the thyroid. www.superfooduk.com
Green tea extract
Green tea extract can also help to boost your metabolism, thanks to the antioxidant polyphenol epigallocatechin gallate. Available from £3.29 from myvitamins.
Green tea extract is packed with antioxidants, which can help boost metabolism. www.myvitamins.com
5-Hydroxytryptophan is a natural amino acid which is taken to maintain healthy brain function and to boost serotonin levels and improve mood. Serotone 5-HTP also contains B vitamins and zinc, and can be converted to melanin which is important for sleep. Available from £8.00 from Higher Nature.
5-HTP can boost serotonin and improve your mood. www.highernature.co.uk
Agnus Castus is a formulation of herbs taken to fox female hormonal imbalance and relieve the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. Bloating, headaches and irritability could be reduced by half by taking this supplement. Available from the Natural Health Practice.
Agnus Castus can help relieve period symptoms. www.naturalhealthpractice.com
Digestive enzymes – particularly betaine hydrochloride and pepsin – aid digestion in the gut and reduce bloating, which can be caused by stress. Available from £14.95 from BioCare.
Digestive enzymes can reduce bloating caused by stress. www.biocare.co.uk
Magnesium is vital for healthy sleep, it can reduce stress and can relieve period symptoms. It should be taken with care as taking too much can cause diarrhoea.
Magnesium is good for sleep and PMS. www.victoriahealth.com
Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs)
BCAAs are a popular fitness supplement because they aid muscle repair and increase circulation when taken after a workout, meaning you can train harder next time. The Natural Health Practice’s specially designed ‘Lose your belly’ is formulated to help you lose fat around the waist. Available from £31.78 from the Natural Health Practice.
Fructooligosaccharide is a probiotic which is particularly good for those who are susceptible to yeast infections, as well as promoting healthy gut bacteria. Available form £26.19 from Amazon.
Probiotics help maintain a healthy digestive system and this supplement contains a mixture of eight high-potency strains, and 30 billion active, freeze-dried organisms. Available from £17.32 from Amazon.
Siberian Ginseng is an ‘adaptogen’ which is taken to help with a wide variety of issues, ranging from stress to the immune system to concentration to athletic performance. It’s basically an all-rounder, but shouldn’t be confused with American, Korean or Panax ginseng. Available from £15.50 from Bodykind.
Tart cherry is one for the gym bunnies and is used to reduce muscle pain after a workout, as well as deliver dose of melanin to help aid restful sleep. Available from £19.99 from Active Edge.
Cranberry juice is well known for its use fighting off urinary tract infections and this is a neater way to take it than drinking the juice. Available from £12.45 from Healthspan.
Vitamin B complex
B vitamins help to reduce tiredness and fatigue, and boost energy levels by maintaining a healthy metabolism. They are also good for brain health in the long term. Available from £12.99 from Solgar.
Vitamin D is the big one when it comes to keeping your bones healthy, and your body needs it to absorb calcium. It’s also one of the more common vitamin deficiencies, so you’d do well to top up. This form has it dissolved in coconut oil for optimum absorption. Available from £12.90 from Puori.
Scientific studies have shown a link between zinc and acne, and found that fewer breakouts occurred in people who were taking zinc supplements. It could be good for those with problematic skin, and this type has added vitamin C. Available from Healthspan.
Spirulina is a nutrient-rich algae sourced from an island in the Pacific Ocean, and is packed full of protein, making it ideal for those wanting to build muscle and burn fat, or just boost their protein intake. Available from £19.99 from Planet Organic.
Starflower Oil is a natural vegetable seed oil rich in essential fatty acids, and is taken to help relieve period symptoms which is aided by the primrose oil it contains. It can also help to relieve tender breasts. Available from £17.50 from Bodykind.
Hyaluronic acid is made up of glucosamine molecules which help the body to retain water, which can reduce the appearance of wrinkles and skin lines to help you look younger. You may also feel younger as it helps to lubricate the joints and muscles. Available from £31.20 from Revital.