Do You Really Need to Take a Multivitamin?
You hear it in Big Media reports all the time: Multivitamins are a waste of money and may even do more harm than good. But this is simply baloney. The fact of the matter is, science has proven that multivitamins can improve virtually every aspect of your health. You just have make sure you’re taking a good one.
Even though I eat a healthy, balanced diet, I still take a daily multivitamin supplement to ensure I’m getting optimal amounts of the nutrients I need. Naturally, as Editor-in-Chief, I stay on top of the latest research on multivitamins, and I’m always glad when new studies confirm what I already know: Taking a high quality multivitamin daily can profoundly improve your health and reduce your risk of serious disease. Some studies show it may even extend your life by up to 10 years!
Why You Need a Multivitamin — Even If You Eat a Healthy Diet
As the pace of our lives continues to quicken, eating on the run and missing meals is common — and can lead to serious nutritional deficiencies. In fact, studies show that the majority of Americans have suboptimal levels of most vitamins and minerals, predisposing them to heart problems, cognitive decline, cancers of the colon and breast and many other chronic diseases of aging.
Some studies link insufficient vitamin and mineral intake with increased risk of arthritis, cataracts, diabetes, hypertension and macular degeneration, while others suggest that deficient levels of calcium and vitamin D can contribute to loss of bone mass. Certain groups of people, including seniors and moderate-to-heavy users of alcoholic beverages, are at even higher risk for vitamin deficiency and suboptimal vitamin status than the general population.
Fruits and vegetables are the main dietary source of most vitamins and minerals, and health experts have long recommended at least five daily servings. But one survey revealed that only 20% to 30% of the U.S. population actually meets this goal. To make matters worse, studies have shown that on the whole, fruits and vegetables harvested today are up to 40% lower in minerals than they were just 50 years ago, as a result of nutrient depletion in the soil in which they are grown.
Phytonutrients: Beyond Vitamins and Minerals
Although vitamins, minerals and antioxidants are the foundation of all multivitamin formulas, a truly effective daily multi should also contain additional phytonutrients that confer health benefits beyond those of vitamins and minerals. Phytonutrients, plant compounds extracted from vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices, have been shown to boost immunity, thwart cells from turning malignant, promote normal blood pressure and healthy bone density, and support healthy vision, prevent cataract formation and hearing loss and preserve healthy cognitive function.
Harvard Researchers Warn Multivitamins Should Be Mandatory
An optimal daily intake of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other phytonutrients is so important to maintaining health and well-being that scientists at the Harvard Medical School have advised all adults to take a multivitamin supplement to help prevent deficiencies that may contribute to the onset of chronic diseases.
On the heels of this noteworthy recommendation came the Physicians’ Health Study II, a long-term, clinical trial involving almost 15,000 male U.S. physicians. In this breakthrough study, older men who took a daily multivitamin lowered their risk of cancer by a statistically significant 8%, compared to men who took no supplements over an average of 11 years of follow up.
J.M. Gaziano, MD, lead researcher of this landmark study, made the vital importance of taking multivitamins crystal clear:
“Of the more than 1.6 million new cancer cases that are diagnosed in the U.S. each year, about 130,000 cancers could be prevented every year with around a penny a day of multivitamins. This is the cheapest health insurance a person will ever buy. This study should finally answer all the doubters out there who still think multivitamin supplements have no value. And it further confirms they are completely safe to take.”
In another important multivitamin study that examined the risk of heart disease in Swedish women, researchers found that, compared with nonusers, the relative telomere length of DNA in white blood cells was on average 5.1% longer among daily multivitamin users. Studies suggest that, in general, longer telomeres confer greater longevity. This study provides the first epidemiologic evidence that multivitamin use could produce longer telomere length among women and perhaps extend life expectancy.
Daily Health Insurance for Less Than the Cost of a Latte
Studies show that few of us obtain 100% of the nutrients we need from our diets alone. They also show that with respect to staying healthy, a daily multivitamin can be worth its weight in gold. That’s why I believe using a daily multi is the nearest thing to a free lunch you’ll ever find to protect you and your family against the chronic diseases that affect so many Americans.
It is estimated that up to 50% of U.S. citizens use multivitamins regularly, suggesting that physicians need to be informed about available formulations and prepared to counsel patients in this regard. Sadly, studies show that mainstream doctors know little about multivitamins and recommend them to fewer than 25% of their patients. As a result, doctors may be treating many of their patients without regard to the supplements they are taking and ignoring the fact that nutritional intake plays a big role in health in wellness.
While I believe all adults can benefit from taking a daily multivitamin, there are a number of conditions that promote serious nutrient deficiencies that make daily multivitamin supplementation absolutely mandatory. These include:
- Advanced age
- Moderate to heavy alcohol use
- Junk food consumption
- Vegan, gluten free or otherwise restrictive diets
- Intestinal inflammation (e.g., IBD, Crohn’s disease and celiac disease)
- Having had gastric bypass surgery
- Genetic predispositions to certain deficiencies
- Pregnancy, perimenopause and menopause
- Participation in heavy physical activity or sports
- Use of antacids, statins or blood pressure pills
The Multivitamin Checklist: How Does Your Multi Measure Up?
Of course, as with any supplement, you can’t just take whatever is on the shelf at your local drugstore. Many companies cut corners with cheap, inferior ingredients and manufacturing practices. Also, many play what I call “the label game” in which they list lots of ingredients on the label to make it look good, but the amounts are so miniscule that they provide negligible health benefits. In my opinion, the makers of Centrum® are masters at this game.
Here are some important questions to ask about the multivitamin you are currently taking or any multivitamin you are considering:
Q. Does your multi contain the healthiest form of vitamin B12?
A. Many multivitamins contain a cheaper synthetic form of vitamin B12 called cyanocobalamin, which produces minute amounts of the poison, cyanide, during its metabolism in the body. This form differs from methylcobalamin, which is the more expensive and natural form of vitamin B12. Unlike cyanocobalamin, methylcobalamin works with other B vitamins to lower toxic levels of homocysteine in the body through a process known as methylation.
Q. Does your multi contain a high quality CoQ10?
A. Most multivitamin products contain no Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), also known as ubiquinone. Without adequate CoQ10, cells cannot make the energy they need to sustain themselves. Eventually, your whole body can suffer from the malaise of low-energy production. CoQ10 is a powerful antioxidant that is an essential component of every cell, and supplemental CoQ10 has a wide range of health benefits, especially as a potent energy-producer, particularly in the aging heart and brain.
Q. Does your multi contain natural mixed tocopherols of vitamin E?
A. To be optimally effective, a good multivitamin should contain natural vitamin E from mixed tocopherols, otherwise known as full-spectrum vitamin E, for maximum potency. I strongly recommend that you avoid using a multi that contains only synthetic dl-alpha tocopheryl which is found in typical multivitamins, as research has shown that this can actually pose a health risk. The natural forms of vitamin E will be listed on the label with the prefix “d-” (d-alpha tocopheryl).
Q. Does your multi contain the most effective form of vitamin D?
A. All multivitamins contain one of two types of vitamin D: synthetic vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) or natural vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). Vitamin D3 is the form that most health experts believe should be used exclusively in clinical practice. When UVB light from the sun strikes the skin, we synthesize vitamin D3, so it is the natural form. Even the type of vitamin D we obtain from foods such as salmon is the vitamin D3 isomer. Studies show that vitamin D3 is it is the more potent isomer of the two forms. Avoid any multivitamin that uses D2. Finally, the absolute lowest amount of vitamin D3 a multivitamin should contain is 20 mcg (800 IU). For maximum health benefits, higher quality multivitamins will have 25 mcg (1,000 IU) to 50 mcg (2,000 IU).
Q. Does your multi contain mineral chelates rather than inorganic minerals?
A. The human digestive process has evolved so that when an inorganic mineral is ingested, it is eventually bonded with an organic molecule so that it can be absorbed, transported, and utilized by the cell. The process is called chelation and the end product of this process is called a chelate. Look for mineral chelates in your multi — minerals that have been bonded to an amino acid or organic acid — that are an organic complex that the body can easily assimilate.
Q. Does your multi contain synergistic nutritional and antioxidant cofactors?
A. Seek out a formula that harnesses the power of nutrient synergy, which multiplies the health-promoting properties of two nutrients when they are consumed together. For example, supplementing with alpha lipoic acid and CoQ10 has been shown to improve mitochondrial performance (energy production). Alpha lipoic acid alone has been shown to reduce weight gain while combining alpha lipoic acid with CoQ10 has been shown to ameliorate insulin resistance. Here’s another example of nutrient synergy: Consuming the carotenoid compounds, lutein and zeaxanthin, can provide synergistic effects for eye health and inhibit age-related macular degeneration.
Q. Does your multi contain iron or other minerals you don’t need to take?
A. You may be old enough to recall the days when Geritol®, an iron-fortified multivitamin tonic and tablet, was advertised to women (and later, to seniors) to prevent “iron-poor” and “tired” blood. Well, times have certainly changed! Health experts now warn that taking supplemental iron can lead to such serious health risks as cancer and cardiovascular disease, especially in men and postmenopausal women. Published studies link elevated body stores of iron with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, skin aging, vascular disease, cataract and age-related macular degeneration. Other minerals, including molybdenum, phosphorous and potassium are so abundant in the diet that adding them is unnecessary and takes up room for other, more valuable ingredients. I would avoid any multivitamin that contains any of these ingredients.
Q. Is your favorite multi free of potential allergens, artificial colors and flavors, is it manufactured in an FDA-inspected facility and does it meet the stringent standards of the US Pharmacopeia (USP)?
A. If the answer to any of these questions is no, I strongly recommend that you find a multivitamin formula that meets all of these criteria. You should settle for nothing less from your multivitamin formula because artificial ingredients and hidden impurities found in products produced in non-FDA-inspected facilities could pose unnecessary health risks, especially in those people who are sensitive or allergic to them.
I encourage you to use the information I presented in this report shop around and find the best multivitamin for you. Stop Aging Now is one good source for complete, high quality multivitamins. Click here to learn more about them.
Joshua Corn – Editor-in-Chief
Josh is a health freedom advocate and veteran of the natural health industry. He has been actively involved in the natural health movement for over 15 years, and has been dedicated to the promotion of health, vitality, longevity and natural living throughout his career. Josh has successfully overcome several personal health challenges through natural means, and believes that sharing information can empower people to take control of their health so they can solve their own problems and live life to its fullest potential. Josh is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Live in the Now. Additionally he serves as CEO of Stop Aging Now, a company that has been formulating premium dietary supplements since 1995. Josh is currently working on his first book about natural health, and is gearing up to launch the Live in the Now radio show. In addition to his work in the natural health field, Josh is an avid outdoorsman, animal lover and enjoys “living in the now” with his wife and two sons.