What is in my Multivitamin?

One of the questions I get a lot of times from patients is “What’s actually in my multivitamin? What am I actually taking?” I think what we have to understand  is what is the original intent for a supplement anyway. The original intent for a supplement is actually to replace what’s in your diet. When we look at this, we have to ask what are things we optimally find from our diet? Is what we find in that supplement actually doing that? Is it filling that role for us?

That brings me to what you commonly pick up over the counter. One of the things I always challenge my patients to do is to actually go down the aisle and pick up different multivitamins and look at it. See if these are things that you would on your own, if you knowingly had the option, put in your body. Because I bet at the end of the day, most of you would look at those supplements and go, “I’m not taking that. That’s not an ideal thing for me to be putting in my body.” Let me give you a couple of examples.

What Color is my Multivitamin?

One that I point to right away is the coloring agents. If you pick up a multivitamin and it has some type of coloring agent in it, just know that coloring agents are known toxins. They actually promote irritability to our nervous system. They have also been equally shown to be an immune system stimulant and to be promoting of auto-immune conditions. Absolutely you don’t want to see any type of color in your multivitamin.

Tablets, Capsules and Fillers in a Multivitamin

Another category that you’re going to find is fillers. Fillers are really put in there to take up space, to maximize the real estate in a capsule, if you will, and they don’t add any true nutritional value to the product itself. Many don’t recognize that there’s a difference between a capsule and a tablet. You have to put a lot of pressure and a lot of heat on the tablets to manufacture them. When that happens, when there is high heat, you damage some of these vitamins. Minerals, not so much; minerals can handle pressure and heat but vitamins can’t. So your B vitamins, your fat-soluble vitamins like your A, E, D or K — those nutrients are going to be damaged so we want to try to avoid tablets as much as possible. Not to mention that, overall, most people don’t really like the way a tablet feels going down in comparison to a capsule. Always choose a multivitamin in a capsule if you can.

Questionable Minerals

Probably, the most important on this is bottom line, what ingredients are in there, the true ingredients, the active ingredients that you’re going to find? The first place that I recommend you look is the mineral section. If you look at a mineral, let’s say for example you’re looking at iron and that iron is shown as a ferrous oxide. Ferrous oxide is known to be irritating to the gastrointestinal tract. It causes nausea or some GI irritation. It’s generally because of the ferrous oxide. The better form is going to be what is known as iron bis-glycinate. That’s just one example.

That typically holds true for magnesium as well. Magnesium oxide is often found in products, calcium carbonate — these things are very, very poorly absorbed and not things you want to take. Again, at the end of the day, if you’re not absorbing it, you’re not getting significant benefit from it. You want to make sure we’re getting good quality minerals in your multivitamin.

Avoiding Cheap forms of B12 and Folate in Your Multivitamin

I’ll give you two more examples. Folic acid is a synthetic form of vitamin B9. Folates are what we derive from our food. Again, if the things that we’re taking in supplemental form are not consistent with what we consume as our food, then have we really met what our objectives are? The answer to that is going to be no. We always want to choose a folate versus a folic acid. If it’s a folic acid, it’s a cheaper option.

B12 should not be from cyanocobalamin. Cyanocobalamin is a form of B12. It’s the one of the four that you don’t find in the body. We find our adenosylcobalamin, our methylcobalamin, our hydroxocobalamin, but not cyanocobalamin. By and large, if you’re looking for a good B12 option, it has to be in a methyl or adenosyl form.

Listen, guys, I know it’s a lot of information but it’s definitely something that I want you as a consumer to know so when you’re trying to make the selection for you and your family, you’ll get the most from your multivitamin. Make sure that these are things you’re looking for.

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