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Most people do not need to take vitamin supplements and can get all the vitamins and minerals they need by eating a healthy, balanced diet.
Vitamins and minerals, such as iron, calcium and vitamin C, are essential nutrients that your body needs in small amounts to work properly.
Many people choose to take supplements but taking too much or taking them for too long could be harmful. The Department of Health and Social Care recommends certain supplements for some groups of people who are at risk of deficiency.
Folic acid supplement in pregnancy
If you’re pregnant, trying for a baby or could get pregnant, it’s recommended that you take a 400 microgram folic acid supplement every day until you’re 12 weeks pregnant. Folic acid supplements need to be taken before you get pregnant, so start taking them before you stop using contraception or if there’s a chance you might get pregnant.
Folic acid can help to prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida.
Find out more about vitamins, supplements and nutrition in pregnancy.
Vitamin D supplement
From around late March or early April until the end of September, most people can get all the vitamin D they need through sunlight on their skin and from eating a balanced diet.
However, during the autumn and winter, you need to get vitamin D from your diet because the sun is not strong enough for your body to make vitamin D.
Because it’s difficult for people to get enough vitamin D from food alone, everyone (including pregnant and breastfeeding women) should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D during the autumn and winter.
Some groups of the population are at greater risk of not getting enough vitamin D and are advised to take a supplement every day of the year.
It is recommended that:
breastfed babies should be given a daily supplement containing 8.5 to 10 micrograms of vitamin D from birth, even if the mother is taking a supplement containing vitamin D herself
babies having 500mls (about a pint) or more of formula a day should not be given a vitamin D supplement, because infant formula is fortified with vitamin D and other nutrients
all children aged 1 to 4 years old should be given a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D
people who are not often exposed to the sun – such as people who are frail or housebound, are in an institution such as a care home, or usually wear clothes that cover most of their skin when outdoors should take a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D
Find out more information about vitamin D.
Supplements containing vitamins A, C and D
Children aged 6 months to 5 years should take vitamin supplements containing vitamins A, C and D every day.
Find out more about vitamins for children or ask your health visitor for advice.
You can get Healthy Start vitamins for free if you qualify for Healthy Start.
A GP may also recommend supplements if you need them for a medical condition. For example, you may be prescribed iron supplements to treat iron deficiency anaemia.