The media today has been instrumental to providing awareness about some of the more common nutritional supplements. Often we hear about the latest “danger” of taking natural supplements or that they provide nothing more than “expensive urine”. Well the truth is that most people don’t get enough vitamins and minerals in their daily diet even if they eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. The other reality is that an absence of deficiency doesn’t equate to optimal health.
There have been numerous studies supporting the use of vitamins and minerals to support basic health, unfortunately these aren’t the ones we hear about in the media. Recent studies have supported the use of a multivitamin for all pregnant women for prevention of many birth defects. Women who took a prenatal vitamin throughout pregnancy had a reduced incidence of all birth defects. This only further supports the fact that people do not generally achieve optimal nutritional status through diet alone.
What kind of multivitamin should you consume?
My current top recommendation for a vitamin & mineral formulation is Life Extension Mix Tabs, 100 tablets .
With all the brands on the market it is quite difficult to decide which multivitamin is best for you. Remember, you get what you pay for no matter what product you purchase today so if you find a supplement for 10 or 20 dollars you are probably not getting the best.
Cheap supplement suppliers often have to cut corners by using cheaper materials allowing them to cheaply manufacture products. They also tend to use inferior grade materials leading to reduced nutrient absorption and utilization. Another common misunderstanding is regarding the different forms of each vitamin and mineral, each differs in effectiveness and ability to confer health benefits due to different chemical properties.
Vitamin E is such an example, high quality brands tend to use natural source vitamin E where low quality companies use synthetic vitamin E. Natural vitamin E is absorbed, utilized and excreted much differently than synthetic vitamin E ; therefore accounting for double the efficacy as compared to synthetic vitamin E for anti-oxidant protection.
Forms of minerals can also influence efficacy of your multivitamin. Minerals that are found in “Citrate or Chelate” form tend to be better absorbed as opposed to “Carbonate or Oxide” form. Once again, cheaper multivitamins tend to supply the inferior form leading to reduced health benefits for your body.
Dosing is also an issue. Cheap multi’s tend to contain “token” doses of everything but not much of anything. It is important that your multi contain dosing that reflects optimal intakes for overall health as opposed to barely meeting minimum requirements to prevent overt deficiency. For those of you that are interested in figuring out optimal dosing of vitamins and minerals I recommend books by Dr Michael Murray ND (Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements), Dr Michael Colgan PhD and Phyllis Balch (Guide to Nutritional Healing).
What brands tend to be of better quality?
Some of the professional line multivitamins (sold by Dr’s) tend to be the best (Metagenics, Douglas Laboratories, Advanced Orthomolecular Research and Thorne Research) but they are also quite expensive.
There are some that rank a close second. One example is the product line from Life Extension. They are continuously researching and developing formulas, using the latest proven discoveries to deal with modern health concerns. Use this link to see what they are currently working on (Life Extension Health Concerns ) The Life Extension supplements can be ordered online, so you save money, since they don’t have to retail store overhead or the professional stocking fees.
Some common brands at your health food store that are not bad but somewhat suboptimal in the dosing range are Natural Factors, Quest, Sisu, Swiss and Regime. These multi’s contain decent forms of vitamins but they definitely are wimpy when it comes to optimal dosing of many key nutrients. The lowest quality multis tend to be the “drug store” variety such as Jamieson and Centrum. They may be inexpensive but they aren’t up to par with regards to quality.
While not the only useful supplements for good health or a replacement for a healthy diet and lifestyle, multivitamins are a critical part of health maintenance. Remember, it is far easier to prevent disease than to treat it!