August 12, 2022

Every year Britons spend round £442 million on vitamin and mineral dietary supplements, with practically half of the inhabitants shopping for them frequently.

Whereas the consensus is {that a} wholesome balanced weight loss program ought to present all of your nutrient wants, the actual fact is many individuals regard dietary supplements as a dietary security internet.

But do you know that how and if you take them can undo their potential advantages? 

For instance, there’s little level in taking vitamin D on an empty abdomen as a result of it wants fats within the intestine to ensure that it to be correctly absorbed. And taking an excessive amount of of 1 B vitamin can depart you low in one other.

Whereas the consensus is {that a} wholesome balanced weight loss program ought to present all of your nutrient wants, the actual fact is many individuals regard dietary supplements as a dietary security internet

‘The nutritional vitamins and minerals we have to keep wholesome work collectively in a posh and delicate stability,’ says Lindsy Kass, a sports activities and diet scientist on the College of Hertfordshire. 

‘Whereas some want one another to carry out finest, others can compete within the physique for absorption.’

Right here, our knowledgeable information explains how you need to take your dietary supplements to make sure you get probably the most out of them and don’t waste your cash…


At a look: Tackle an empty abdomen earlier than mattress, and mix with vitamin C or A; keep away from taking with dairy, tea or zinc drugs.

Low iron is likely one of the most typical diet deficiencies, with figures from the UK Well being Safety Company exhibiting that three-quarters of ladies are susceptible to iron-deficient anaemia, which causes fatigue, lack of power and coronary heart palpitations.

That is primarily owing to girls dropping as much as 250mg of iron throughout their month-to-month interval.

‘Iron needs to be taken on an empty abdomen, as a result of sure meals, particularly dairy, can block its absorption,’ says Aidan Goggins, a London-based pharmacist and an impartial adviser to the complement trade.

‘However vitamin C will help your physique take up iron, so it’s a good suggestion to mix it with this, both within the complement, or by having a glass of orange juice,’ he says.

What to take when… 

A tough information to optimum instances to take dietary supplements.

Earlier than breakfast: B advanced nutritional vitamins.

With breakfast: Vitamin C, calcium.

half-hour earlier than A MEAL: Probiotics.

With night meal: Vitamin D, fish oils.

An hour earlier than mattress: Iron.

At bedtime: Magnesium.


That’s as a result of vitamin C bonds to iron particles, which helps them to dissolve extra fully within the intestine.

Vitamin A can even enhance iron absorption, so taking an iron complement that comprises it — or its precursor beta-carotene — might be very helpful.

However don’t wash your drugs down with milk-based drinks, because the calcium in these blocks the iron receptors within the intestine, impairing the absorption, says Aidan.

You also needs to keep away from ingesting tea. ‘When tea is sipped with a meal, it will possibly inhibit the absorption of iron out of your meals by as much as 90 per cent, and so the identical adverse impact is more likely to occur should you take an iron tablet with tea,’ he provides.

This isn’t simply due to the dairy, however as a result of the tannins (naturally occurring plant compounds) in tea bind to iron and block its absorption.

‘A 2017 examine of UK girls discovered that when ingesting tea one hour after a meal, the quantity of iron absorbed was decreased by 50 per cent — so depart at the least two hours,’ advises Aidan.

Zinc is one other nutrient that may compete with iron as a result of each minerals want to connect to the identical ‘transporter molecules’ within the intestine.

These assist vitamins get by way of the intestine wall and into the bloodstream. Merchandise containing zinc are, subsequently, finest prevented.

‘As a result of so many elements can intervene together with your absorption of iron, I discover it’s finest taken as a mixed complement with vitamin C, an hour earlier than mattress — however two hours after supper,’ says Aidan.

Taking it proper earlier than mattress means it could linger within the intestine and irritate its delicate lining, which may set off emotions of nausea and discomfort, he provides.

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‘Leaving an hour earlier than mattress means it ought to have handed by way of into the abdomen earlier than you lie down,’ he says.

Some analysis suggests iron is finest taken each different day.

A 2017 examine by the Laboratory of Human Vitamin in Zurich, Switzerland, revealed in The Lancet Haematology, discovered that extra iron was absorbed when dietary supplements had been taken on alternate, not consecutive, days.

The researchers assume alternate-day dosing lowers ranges of hepcidin, a protein that regulates intestinal iron absorption. Excessive ranges of it have additionally been linked to anaemia.

Many menopausal women take calcium to help prevent the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis. Often, the calcium is combined in a pill with magnesium, which is also good for bones

Many menopausal girls take calcium to assist stop the bone-thinning illness osteoporosis. Typically, the calcium is mixed in a tablet with magnesium, which can also be good for bones


At a look: Take a complement (ideally additionally containing magnesium, vitamin D and vitamin Okay) with meals; search for merchandise containing calcium citrate; keep away from taking with zinc or iron drugs.

Many menopausal girls take calcium to assist stop the bone-thinning illness osteoporosis.

Typically, the calcium is mixed in a tablet with magnesium, which can also be good for bones. Actually, calcium and magnesium work collectively in some methods but additionally compete for absorption within the intestine.

Regardless of this, Aidan recommends the mixed tablet, ‘as a result of the additional comfort of taking them in a mixed complement in all probability outweighs the comparatively small share of every that won’t get absorbed,’ he says.

Vitamin D and vitamin Okay are additionally typically present in calcium dietary supplements, and each have been proven to spice up general calcium absorption. ‘You want adequate vitamin D in your blood [equal to a supplement dose of at least 400 international units, or IUs] to have the ability to take up calcium nicely,’ says Aidan.

‘It is because vitamin D is transformed into the hormone calcitriol, which acts on cells within the intestine to extend manufacturing of calcium-absorbing proteins known as calbindins.’

Magnesium can also be wanted for the vitamin D to stability calcium ranges. ‘It’s a fragile relationship,’ says Aidan. ‘So a complement containing all 4 vitamins [i.e., plus vitamin K] is good.’

‘Taking calcium with meals may also improve absorption,’ he says. And search for dietary supplements with calcium citrate, ‘which research have proven is healthier absorbed by the intestine than different cheaper types of calcium corresponding to calcium carbonate’, he provides.

Researchers at Florida State College in 2014 discovered that taking a collagen complement with calcium helps it work even higher in terms of stopping bone loss in early menopausal girls.

‘Collagen fibres type the scaffolding of our skeleton,’ says Aidan. A great provide, he provides, helps construct the perfect construction for ‘calcium to be drawn and deposited into the bones the place it supplies their stiffness and rigidity’.

For those who additionally use zinc or iron, take these individually from calcium because it inhibits their absorption. 

Vitamin D 

At a look: Take within the night with meals (or largest meal of the day) containing fats; keep away from taking with vitamin E drugs.

Within the winter months, round half the inhabitants is low in vitamin D, a nutrient very important for wholesome bones and powerful immunity.

And since we make vitamin D largely by way of solar publicity on our pores and skin, the recommendation is to take 10 mcg day by day over winter.

Like the opposite fat-soluble nutritional vitamins (A, E, and Okay), vitamin D is healthier absorbed if taken with a meal that comprises some fats, corresponding to avocado, egg yolks or olive oil.

One examine revealed within the Journal of Bone and Mineral Analysis in 2010 discovered that taking it with the night meal — often the heaviest meal of the day — elevated blood ranges of the vitamin by as much as 50 per cent in contrast with taking it both on an empty abdomen or with a smaller meal.

‘Taking vitamin D with meals ensures the optimum launch of bile and pancreatic enzymes within the abdomen which might be required for the absorption of fat-soluble nutritional vitamins,’ says Aidan.

However don’t take a vitamin D complement with a vitamin E tablet as each are absorbed by way of the identical mechanism and so compete for absorption, decreasing the quantity absorbed of each.

Vitamin C

At a look: Take within the morning on an empty abdomen; break up bigger doses all through the day; take into account taking drugs which might be ‘fats wrapped’.

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Essential for the immune system and very important for wholesome pores and skin and bones, vitamin C is a water-soluble nutrient and so, in contrast to another nutritional vitamins, doesn’t have to be taken with fats.

Most water-soluble nutritional vitamins are finest absorbed on a very empty abdomen, corresponding to earlier than breakfast, as their absorption might be hindered by proteins and fibre in meals, says Aidan.

Research recommend we will take up doses of as much as 400mg — ten instances the advisable day by day degree of 40mg — however vitamin C isn’t saved within the physique, so any extra is solely handed out in urine. Which means folks taking short-term, bigger doses of 1,000mg — for instance, throughout a chilly — could also be higher splitting up the dose all through the day to assist keep fixed excessive ranges within the blood.

Aidan says a break up dose can even stop the upset abdomen some folks expertise with these bigger doses.

A brand new technology of liposome-encapsulated vitamin C merchandise — which wrap vitamin C particles in protecting fats bubbles — have been discovered to supply increased absorption than commonplace oral vitamin C dietary supplements.

In accordance with analysis — funded by the liposomal know-how trade — revealed in 2016 in Vitamin and Metabolic Insights, the fats means ‘it’s not damaged down within the abdomen as vitamin C would usually be however reaches the small gut intact, the place it’s straight absorbed into the bloodstream,’ says Aidan.

However Lindsy Kass says that, whereas the liposomal supply works, ‘a regular complement provides you with greater than sufficient vitamin C’.

Fish oil

At a look: Take with meals (that comprises fats); keep away from taking earlier than a exercise or sleep.

Fish oil drugs are a wealthy supply of two omega-3 fat known as EPA and DHA, which have confirmed advantages for a variety of sicknesses together with low temper, coronary heart illness and rheumatoid arthritis.

The important thing with these is timing. ‘Don’t take fish oils within the morning earlier than you’ve eaten,’ warns Aidan. ‘They want dietary fats to assist their absorption so ought to all the time be taken with a meal.’

That’s as a result of the fats in meals triggers the pancreas to launch enzymes, which assist break down omega-3 oils into fragments sufficiently small to be absorbed by way of the intestine wall.

Additionally, keep away from taking them earlier than a exercise or sleep ‘as a result of digesting a fish oil complement will produce gasoline in your abdomen’, says Aidan, ‘and strenuous exercise or mendacity down encourage this gasoline to journey again up the oesophagus triggering reflux — or these disagreeable fishy burps’.

For those who discover it laborious to digest fish oils, strive additionally taking a complement that comprises the enzyme lipase, which boosts fats digestion.

B nutritional vitamins

At a look: Take within the morning on an empty abdomen; select a complement with a mix of various B nutritional vitamins.

The group of eight B nutritional vitamins — together with B6, B9 (in any other case generally known as folic acid) and B12 — are very important for wholesome blood, nerve operate and power ranges.

Due to their energy-boosting talents and the truth that they’re water-soluble, they’re finest taken very first thing within the morning on an empty abdomen.

Vitamin B12, particularly, binds to the protein within the meals we eat and may then find yourself passing straight out of the intestine as waste with out being absorbed. However that’s not the one cause to take them within the morning.

A 2018 examine by the College of Adelaide in Australia discovered that prime vitamin B6 doses might intervene with sleep and induce vivid desires.

Researchers assume it stimulates the world of the mind liable for emotions of wakefulness.

Aidan advises taking a B vitamin mix. ‘Taking one B vitamin by itself will increase the physique’s want for the others and may find yourself inflicting deficiencies,’ he says.

‘For instance, taking folic acid alone can set off or masks a deficiency in vitamin B12.’


At a look: Take half an hour earlier than consuming; take earlier than a meal containing some fats; keep away from taking with scorching drinks, juices or alcohol.

These are ‘good micro organism’ that make up a part of our intestine microbiome — the group of micro organism that performs a significant function in our digestive well being and immune system.

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A poor weight loss program or treatment corresponding to antibiotics can kill off the great micro organism, serving to dangerous ones thrive, which will increase the chance of intestine infections or digestion issues. Probiotic dietary supplements purpose to replenish ranges of excellent micro organism.

‘A very powerful factor to recollect with probiotics is that they’re dwell micro organism which have to succeed in the intestine intact to have any profit,’ says Aidan.

So keep away from taking them with something which may destroy these delicate bugs earlier than they attain the small gut.

‘Scorching drinks can kill them, as can the acid ranges in fruit juice and alcohol, so take them with plain water,’ he says. ‘Water additionally helps dilute abdomen acid, which additional will increase their survival probabilities.’

Take into account taking them earlier than consuming. A 2011 Canadian examine discovered that probiotics containing the micro organism Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium had the best survival fee when taken half-hour earlier than a meal.

The examine additionally discovered it helped if the following meal contained some fats — in all probability as this decreased general abdomen acidity.

Taking probiotics half an hour after meals had the other impact, with the bottom micro organism survival fee (in all probability as that is when abdomen acid is at its highest).


At a look: Stability fastidiously if combining with calcium; take at bedtime if utilizing for a soothing impact.

In addition to being helpful for bone well being, should you’re taking calcium, there’s proof that magnesium could assist ease nervousness, stressed legs, muscle cramps, migraine and enhance general sleep.

As a result of calcium and magnesium can compete for absorption, should you’re taking each examine the ratio — you need to take roughly twice as a lot calcium as magnesium.

Magnesium absorption will probably be ‘significantly affected if the calcium dose is far increased than the magnesium dose’, says Lindsy.

Some research additionally recommend that an excessive amount of calcium with too little magnesium could contribute to calcification of the arteries, rising the chance of coronary heart illness.

For those who’re taking magnesium by itself, its stress-free impact means it is sensible to take it near bedtime and take into account making an attempt it as a lotion or cream.

‘One 2017 examine discovered that making use of a magnesium cream to the pores and skin day by day for 2 weeks improved blood ranges of the mineral by greater than 22 per cent — greater than double the quantity you’d obtain from a magnesium pill,’ says Lindsy.

Don’t wash them down with a cuppa! 

Swallow dietary supplements with a giant glass of water: fluid consumption is vital for the disintegration of the complement and for the dissolution of water-soluble vitamins, corresponding to B nutritional vitamins and vitamin C.

However skip the espresso: caffeine can intervene with absorption of vitamins. And because it’s a diuretic, it might additionally imply you excrete your water-soluble nutritional vitamins earlier than you take up them. It’s finest to attend for an hour after ingesting espresso to take any dietary supplements. The identical goes for tea, power drinks and any meals that comprises caffeine.

THINK twice a few multivitamin: taking one as a basic medical insurance coverage may be a waste of cash as a result of among the vitamins can compete for absorption, that means you might not get the complete doses of every thing it comprises.

‘Research present we take up round 99 per cent of vitamin C taken as a single complement however lower than 50 per cent when in a multivitamin,’ says pharmacist Aidan Goggins.

Plus, as a result of they include water-soluble and fat-soluble nutritional vitamins, taking them on an empty abdomen will imply you don’t take up a lot of the fat-soluble ones, whereas taking with a meal could impair absorption of the water-soluble ones.

Don’t eat nuts earlier than taking minerals: phytic acid — a type of phosphorus present in plant-based meals, corresponding to bran, beans and nuts — binds to minerals within the intestine, together with iron, calcium and magnesium, creating phytates.

Our our bodies can’t break down phytates, that means minerals certain to them received’t be correctly absorbed.

However research present this solely impacts the absorption of vitamins eaten on the identical meal.