How useful are vitamin tablets? The most important questions and answers

Wie sinnvoll sind Vitamintabletten? Die wichtigsten Fragen und Antworten

In the hope of doing something good for their bodies, around a third of adults in Germany regularly take vitamin tablets and other dietary supplements. These are said to have a positive effect on health and even prevent life-threatening diseases. But how useful are vitamin supplements really?

Whether an additional intake of vitamins is necessary, we will examine in the following article. We also explain for whom vitamin tablets can be useful and point out possible health risks of food supplements.

the essentials in brief

  • The human body needs vitamins to function. As a rule, a healthy and varied diet is sufficient to cover the daily need for vitamins.
  • There are situations in life in which vitamin tablets can be useful. Vitamin supplements can support the body during pregnancy, in old age or with intestinal diseases.
  • "More can't hurt" doesn't apply to vitamins. Dietary supplements can also be overdosed and thus harm the body.

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How useful are vitamin tablets: What you should know

In order to be able to answer this question for you, you should acquire some background information on vitamin tablets. We have compiled and answered frequently asked questions for you in the following paragraphs.

What does the body need vitamins for?

Vitamins are essential for us to live. Without them, our organs, nerves, blood, bones, eyes and skin would not function. Our body cannot produce vitamins itself for the most part, or only in small amounts. Because of this, we need to take vitamins in a different way.

If we feel tired and listless, this can indicate a vitamin deficiency. In order to strengthen our immune system and stay healthy, we have to pay attention to a balanced diet. Healthy meals usually provide the vitamins your body needs.

What vitamins do I need?

In order for the metabolism to function smoothly, the human body needs vitamins. These can be divided into two groups: fat-soluble vitamins and water-soluble vitamins.

The fat-soluble vitamins can be better processed by the body and excess nutrients are stored. The liver and adipose tissue serve as important vitamin stores.

Water-soluble vitamins must be taken daily because they cannot be stored in the body. Only the required vitamins are absorbed and the excess is excreted in the urine. Vitamin B12 and folic acid (B9) are an exception as these vitamins are stored in the liver.

Fat-soluble vitamins Water-soluble vitamins
Vitamin A (retinol) Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)
Vitamin D (cholecalciferol) Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
Vitamin E (tocopherol) Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
Vitamin K1 Vitamin B3 (nicotinic acid, niacin)
Vitamin K2 Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)
Vitamin K3 Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
Vitamin K4 Vitamin B7 (biotin, vitamin H)
itamin B9 (folic acid)
Vitamin B12 (cobalamin)


How useful are multivitamin tablets?

Multivitamin tablets contain various vitamins, minerals and trace elements and seem to be the ideal solution at first glance.

Cover everything easily and conveniently with just one preparation?

Previous studies have not been able to prove that multivitamin preparations have a positive effect on the body. Mortality appears to increase with beta-carotene and vitamin E. This was also found with higher doses of vitamin A. (2)

In the event of a vitamin deficiency, it is advisable to only take what the body needs and not to resort to multivitamin tablets.

Can I cover my vitamin requirements through food?

If we don't take in enough vitamins, there can be a risk of deficiency symptoms. An unbalanced diet can be a cause.

"Include veggies and fruit in every meal, either raw or gently prepared to retain lots of nutrients. The more colorful, the better." - German Society for Nutrition

In healthy people, the vitamin requirement can be covered by a wholesome diet (exception: vitamin D). A high proportion of plant-based foods is important. The German Society for Nutrition recommends eating at least 5 servings of vegetables and fruit every day. Your own hand is used as the unit of measurement for the portion. The amounts are adjusted according to age and height. For an adult, this equates to around 400g of vegetables and around 250g of fruit per day (3).

In the table below we have listed a few foods that contain valuable vitamins.

vitamin Groceries
Vitamin A Milk, egg yolk, liver, spinach, carrots
Vitamin B1 Pork, Peas, Whole Grains, Sesame
Vitamin B2 Dairy products, meat, fish, beetroot, broccoli
Vitamin B3 Meat, liver, egg, green leafy vegetables, green beans, mushrooms
Vitamin B5 Liver, sea fish, sunflower seeds, porcini mushrooms
Vitamin B6 Meat, milk, avocado, banana, potatoes, walnuts, sauerkraut
Vitamin B7 Yeast, liver, egg yolk, lentils, soybeans
Vitamin B9 Oranges, lettuce, spinach, asparagus, tomatoes, whole grains
Vitamin B12 Beef, Liver, Egg, Sea Fish, Dairy Products
vitamin C Kiwi, sea buckthorn, peppers, kale, broccoli, citrus fruits
Vitamin D fatty fish varieties, egg, avocado
vitamin E Corn, Pumpkin, Nuts, Vegetable Oils, Butter, Egg
vitamin k Spinach, cabbage, lettuce, cauliflower, watercress

First and foremost, attention should be paid to the freshness of the food. If you don't have the opportunity to always buy fresh food, you can fall back on frozen food. Careful storage, processing and preparation is also important so that the food does not lose its vitamins.

A balanced diet is not enough in some cases. During pregnancy, in old age or in the case of intestinal diseases, it can make sense to take additional vitamins.

How can I determine a vitamin deficiency?

If we lack nutrients and vitamins, the body can no longer function properly. But how do you find out if you have a vitamin deficiency? We have listed six typical signs of vitamin deficiency that should be taken seriously.

  • Fatigue : You don't always have the same amount of energy. But if you struggle to get out of bed every day, your body could be lacking in important vitamins (E, B1, B5, B6, and B12). Other signs of this are poor concentration and mild circulatory problems.
  • Inflammation : In the case of advanced vitamin deficiency, inflammation can occur. Do you suffer from pain or infection in different parts of the body? This could indicate a lack of vitamin C, D, K or B5.
  • Hair loss : Skin and hair react strongly to vitamin deficiencies. If you are very pale or have hair loss, it could be due to a lack of B vitamins as well as vitamin D, calcium, iron, zinc and iodine.
  • Joint Pain : Chronic inflammation in the body can lead to joint and muscle pain. These occur when the body lacks important vitamins and the "inner motor" cannot start properly. In addition to exercise, you should bring your household of vitamins D, E and B5 back into balance.
  • Weak immune system : Are coughs and sore throats your daily companions? Is your nose running all the time? Your immune system depends on important nutrients and vitamins. If vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D or E are missing, your immune system is weakened.
  • Digestion : Healthy digestion is extremely important for your general well-being. If the vitamin absorption via the intestine does not work properly, this can lead to diarrhea, constipation or abdominal pain. Numerous metabolic processes in the body need vitamin B1, B3, B6 and B12.

Keep your body and mind healthy

with our multivitamin supplement

  • packed with vitamins to provide you with important nutrients 🍏
  • for a healthy and balanced everyday life ✨/li>
  • automatically get 21% discount when you buy it now💰*

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*The discount is automatically applied to the product

What vitamins are recommended for supplementation?

Vitamin tablets cannot replace a healthy and varied diet. As a rule, a balanced diet is sufficient to cover your daily vitamin requirements. Foods that naturally contain the micronutrients do more than isolated vitamins. Fruit and vegetables also contain healthy dietary fiber and plant protection substances.

vegetable bowl

The selection of fruit and vegetables should be as varied as possible. Behind the different colors are the different vitamins. (Image source: Anna Pelzer / Unsplash)

So far, studies have not been able to prove that taking vitamin supplements promotes health. No benefit was seen in healthy subjects with no nutritional deficiencies. The risk of cancer, heart attack & Co. could not be demonstrably reduced. (7)

However, there are situations in which vitamin tablets can support the body. For example, if you have to take medication regularly, you may have deficiency symptoms.

When and for whom does it make sense to take vitamin tablets?

In special life situations or with special eating habits, an increased need for vitamins can be required.


Women who want to have children and are pregnant are recommended to supplement their diet with folic acid. Taking vitamin folic acid reduces the risk of neural tube defects in newborns, such as "open spine". The need for folic acid in women is also increased during breastfeeding. (4)

High age

With increasing age, it becomes more difficult to cover the vitamin requirement with nutrition. Older people need less energy, but the need for nutrients remains the same or can even increase. A nutritious and varied diet is important for the 65+ age group. (5)

intestinal diseases

When digestion isn't working properly, absorption of nutrients suffers. In the case of celiac disease or Crohn's disease, dietary supplements can counteract this deficiency. The intake should always be discussed with the doctor treating you. (9)

Cold season

With us, vitamin D formation is only possible from March to October. During this time, the body covers its need for "sun vitamins" and builds up reserves for the winter months.

woman in field

The body absorbs vitamin D through the skin. Spending time outdoors is therefore very important to prevent vitamin D deficiency. (Image Source: Quan Nguyen / Unsplash)

To do this, it is recommended to expose your face, hands and arms to the sun without sunscreen two to three times a week. (6) But be careful: If you stay in the sun for a long time, you should definitely take sun protection measures!

What should you consider when taking vitamin tablets?

The timing of the is crucial. For the vitamins to be processed by the body, they must be taken correctly. The time of day and the meal play a role.

  • Vitamins that are water soluble should be taken on an empty stomach . Recommended is 30 minutes before or 2 hours after a meal. Should this cause stomach problems, it can be combined with a light meal.
  • As the name suggests, fat-soluble vitamins dissolve in fat before entering the bloodstream. These vitamins are best taken with a fatty meal. Ideally, intake is in the evening with foods such as nuts, seeds, avocados or olive oil.
  • Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. It should be taken with an earlier meal as it can affect the sleep-wake cycle by blocking the production of melatonin.

The recommended dosage should not be exceeded under any circumstances. Please note the recommended values ​​on the packaging.

Vitamin tablets: healthy or dangerous?

Vitamin tablets are food supplements and are considered foods. In contrast to pharmaceuticals, they do not have to go through an official approval process. It is the responsibility of the food companies to ensure that the food supplements do not harm health. (4)

The official food control regularly and randomly checks the range of products on the German market. However, this is no guarantee that the products should be taken without further ado.

Can you mix vitamin tablets with medicines?

Vitamin tablets should only be taken together with medicines in consultation with the doctor treating you. It cannot be ruled out that food supplements influence the effect of the drugs and thus have a negative effect on the therapy. (4)

The interactions between dietary supplements and medications and between vitamins and minerals should always be considered. Homeopathic preparations can also have an effect on vitamin absorption.

How harmful is taking vitamin pills?

An extremely high dose of fat-soluble vitamins can be dangerous. What is too much is difficult to determine.

“With up to three times the reference value, we can assume that we are safe. Anything beyond that is a gray area." Hans Konrad Biesalski, Professor of Biological Chemistry and Nutritional Science at the University of Hohenheim

As a rule, excess vitamins are sent to the kidneys and excreted in the urine. An overdose can cause diarrhea, dizziness or vomiting. Basically, if there is no deficiency, no dietary supplements should be taken.

What alternatives are there to vitamin tablets?

Vitamin supplements are available in various forms on the market. Depending on the dosage, one or the other variant is preferable.

shape revenue Remarks
capsules To be swallowed with water or juice Can be taken quickly and discreetly.
effervescent tablets Dissolve in water Ideal for absorbing water-soluble vitamins
chewable tablets chewing in the mouth Recommended for children or elderly people with swallowing problems
powder To be taken with liquid Ideal for absorbing water-soluble vitamins
liquid Drink undiluted They don't last as long as the other forms.

These dietary supplements can have a supporting effect. However, they are not a substitute for a healthy and balanced diet.


If you eat a varied and healthy diet, you get all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals that your body needs. In special life situations, taking vitamin tablets can be useful.

Vitamin tablets should only be taken if there is a proven vitamin deficiency. Under no circumstances should vitamins be overdosed. If you are not sure whether you are suffering from a vitamin deficiency, you should consult a specialist.

Individual proofs(9)

  1. Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), assessment of vitamins and minerals in food Source
  2. AU:Bjelakovic G, Nikolova D, Gluud LL, Simonetti RG, Gluud C; Antioxidant supplements for prevention of mortality in healthy participants and patients with various diseases DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD007176.pub2 Source
  3. German Society for Nutrition e. V., Bonn; Eat and drink wholesome according to the 10 rules of the DGE Source
  4. The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), questions and answers on food supplements Source
  5. German Society for Nutrition e. V., Bonn; Summary of Product Characteristics Critical Nutrients Source
  6. Rabenberg M, Scheidt-Nave C, Busch MA et al. Vitamin D status among adults in Germany – results from the German Health Interview and Examination Survey for Adults (DEGS1). BMC Public Health 15, 641 (2015). Source
  7. Curtis AJ, Bullen M, Piccenna L, McNeil JJ. Vitamin E supplementation and mortality in healthy people: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Cardiovascular Drugs Ther. 2014;28(6):563-573. doi:10.1007/s10557-014-6560-7 source
  8. Fortmann SP, Burda BU, Senger CA, Lin JS, Whitlock EP. Vitamin and mineral supplements in the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer: An updated systematic evidence review for the US Preventive Services Task Force. Ann Intern Med. 2013;159(12):824-834. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-159-12-201312170-00729 significant benefit in male cancer was found in two studies. Source
  9. Jörg C. Hoffmann, Tobias Ungewitter October 21, 2019, Which laboratory controls are important? Published in: The General Practitioner, 2019; 41 (17) pages 50-51 Source
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