Vitamins are vital for proper bodily function. They have key roles to play in pretty much every process in your body and have a huge impact if they're not readily available. Vitamin deficiencies can lead to poor blood clotting, reduced immune function, scurvy and all sorts of other issues. So is it about time we all started taking these supplements, or is there another way?
Ideally you wouldn't need to take vitamin supplements. Ideally you would get all of your vitamins in their natural form as they are found in your food. Eat enough fruit, veg, meat, nuts and seeds and your diet should have enough vitamins for your needs. However, there's a couple of things that can have an impact on this.
1) The quality of the food that you're eating. It's been shown many times that lower quality fruit, veg and meat has less nutritional value than better produced food. i.e. - generally the cheaper and mass produced food won't provide as much 'bang for your buck' as the more carefully produced food.
2) The content of your diet. Most people don't eat enough natural food. They eat more processed food that doesn't have the vitamins in their naturally occurring forms. Low fat diets will generally impact levels of vitamins A, D, E and K which are only found when fat is around.
Reading these 2 points you could argue that a large amount of people are probably deficient in some way or another of some vitamin or another. Therefore it would make sense to supplement surely? Well, yes, but it's not the best way to get your vitamins. The supplements will provide with a big hit of the vitamin, but big isn't always best. Most of the water soluble vitamins (e.g. vitamin C) don't stay in your body very long so having one big hit could mean you're still not able to absorb enough. The vitamin is excreted in your urine before you get a chance to absorb enough. Other vitamins actually become poisonous in high enough amounts. It's a fine balancing act to make sure you get the right amounts.
One other weakness of vitamin supplements is the form that the vitamin is found in. What we mean here is that vitamins can be found in a number of different forms, and that your body needs a certain form. This form is generally the one found when the vitamin is eaten / drunk as part of a natural diet, but it's not always the form it's found in pills for a number of reasons.
So, are vitamin supplements needed and should more people be taking them? Ideally, no. Ideally people would get their vitamins from food. Eating natural, healthy, full fat, un processed food will increase the levels of vitamins you're eating. However, it's not always easy to get your hands on this food. It's generally a little more expensive and can't be found in supermarkets easily. If it's the case that you don't eat that level of food, then yes it's likely that some form of vitamin supplement could be helpful for you. The difficulty is knowing which vitamins you may be lacking and which is the best supplement to take to counteract this. A bit of research online will help you analyse your diet and get the answers.