What to Look for in a Multivitamin

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Know what to look for when you buy vitamins and multivitamins so you do not waste your money.

The competition for your vitamin dollars is stronger then ever and the huge selection of multivitamins is growing. There are some things you can look for when buying vitamins. Since the competition is huge among vitamin makers, there are advertising claims that have been brought into question.

It is said that if you eat a balanced diet you should be getting all the vitamins and minerals you need without having to take vitamins. Research says most people don’t eat a good balanced diet. Also, stress, illnesses, alcohol, smoking and exertion all use up the vitamins in our bodies and can deplete some to the point we need to take a multiple vitamin.

RDA

RDA stands for recommended daily allowance. The RDA is the minimum to keep serious deficiencies and disease away, not for optimal health. On foods, drinks and vitamins look for the %DV, this is the percent of the daily value each nutrient has. Pay attention to serving size since this percent is by the serving size. The government is currently changing the RDA to acknowledge current research.

What to look for in a multivitamin

When you look at the labels of vitamins, you might notice some of the daily value percent many times larger then 100 percent. This is because most feel that the governments RDA is far too low, which was established as the minimum to stay alive or so a person wouldn’t get a disease such as scurvy.

Vitamin A can come in the form of vitamin A, beta-carotene or a mix of both. Beta-carotene turns into vitamin A in the body, too much vitamin A can be toxic. Some of the better multivitamins have both Vitamin A and Beta-Carotene in them. The vitamin A should be at least 20% from beta-carotene. The listing for vitamin A should not be over 3,000 IU. The Beta-carotene can be much higher. Eating fortified cereals and also taking a multivitamin can put a person at risk for going over the limit of vitamin A per day. Beta-carotene is not toxic like vitamin A.

Vitamin B1, Thiamine. Many multivitamins have much more then the RDA for B1 and other B vitamins. Thiamine for example can be completely depleted from the body in 14 days.

Vitamin B3 – Niacin (Nicotinic acid) and Niacinamide are both B3. Niacin can cause the skin to flush and Niacinamide does not, Niacinamide is useful in arthritis and the onset of type I diabetes. Niacin helps in lowering cholesterol. Some vitamins have both types of B3 in them.

Vitamin B12, strict vegetarians might have a lower B12 and should either take a multi-vitamin containing it or a B12 supplement.

B vitamins, in most of the multivitamins I looked at, they had many times more then the RDA in the B vitamins. Studies have shown that these amounts of the B vitamins are beneficial and as we get older our bodies have a harder time absorbing the B vitamins.

Vitamin D comes in two variations, Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). Research shows D3 to be the more potent type of vitamin D. There is consideration to raise the value of recommended Vitamin D by as much as 10 times the current RDA.

Vitamin E; can either be natural or synthetic. On the label, the natural type will say (d- alpha-tocopherol) and the synthetic type will say (dl- alpha-tocopherol). The natural is the better and you should look for that on the label.

Vitamin K, helps with blood clotting. If you are taking a blood thinner drug such as Coumidan or Warfarin, you need to talk to your doctor about foods and vitamins that contain Vitamin K. Some mutlivitamins do not have any vitamin K in them for this reason.

Calcium and potassium, a multi vitamin will usually have a small percent of the daily value in them, 100 percent would make the pill too big.

Iron, the RDA for woman varies greatly according to pre-menopausal or postmenopausal. Men really don’t need iron in a vitamin and some studies indicate too much iron can cause cancer. Many multivitamins are iron free.

Other beneficial nutrients you might see in a multivitamin could be Spirulina, bee pollen, Betaine, Boron, fatty acids, Glutamic acid, Hesperidin, Inositol, Paba, Silica, Ginseng, Lycopene, Inositol, Quercetin, Lutein, Carotenoids, L-Carnitine and COQ10. CO-Q10 is one that I do believe is very helpful, though it might be better to take as a separate supplement.

Absorption of vitamins and minerals

There are two types of vitamins, water-soluble and others are fat-soluble. Vitamin E for example is fat-soluble. Taking some fat with a vitamin is a good idea, for example a teaspoon of peanut butter works great. There is newer research that taking aloe vera along with a vitamin increases the absorption of certain vitamins. I have noticed some multivitamins have aloe vera in them.

The bottom line

Look for vitamins at a natural health food store. they are most likely to be sugar, yeast, lactose and gluten free. They will most likely have all of the nutrients you are looking for in the proper amounts. Consumer Reports did a study of close-out and the dollar store type vitamins and found them to be lacking in the actual amount in the vitamin as was on their labels and they also didn’t dissolve properly. I found a vitamin called Simply One from the company SuperNutrition has everything I wanted in a vitamin. Their prices were equal and sometimes better then the widely advertised Centrum vitamins. I also noticed that many of the common, mass advertised and cheaper multivitamins didn’t list the types of B3, D or E vitamins that were in their product. If you hate taking tablets, try the softgel type of vitamins. Don’t take your vitamins with coffee, which hinders the absorption of some vitamins and minerals. Vitamin water, vitamin bars and fortified cereal usually don’t have the vitamins and mineral a multivitamin will have and cost a lot more per day then taking a multivitamin.

The government has found that the RDA was insufficient for some vitamins so they came up with the adequate intake (AI), they are marked with a *.

This chart is of the RDA minimums for adults and should at least be the minimum in your multi-vitamin. mcg = micrograms. mg = milligrams. IU = International units.

Vitamins

RDA

male

RDA

female

Upper limit/per day

From supplements

A (IU)

3000

2310

10,000 IU

A (mcg)

900

700

3,000 mcg

B1 (mg) Thiamine

1.2

1.1

Not established

B2 (mg) Riboflavin

1.3

1.1

Not established

B3 (mg)

Niacin

16

14

35 - 50 mg to prevent flushing

B5 (mg)

Pantothenic

5

5

10-20 grams

B6 (mg)

Pyridoxine

1.5

1.5

In excess of 1,000 mg/day

B12 (mcg)

Cobalamin

2.4

2.4

Not established

Biotin (mcg)

30 *

30 *

Not established

Choline (mg)

550 *

425 *

None established

Folate (mcg)

Folic acid

400

400

1,000 mcg

Vitamin C (mg)

90

75

2,000 mg

Vitamin D (mcg)

Vitamin D (IU)

5-10*

400*

5-10*

400*

50 mcg/ per day

2,000 IU/per day

Vitamin E (IU)

Vitamin E (mg)

22.5

15

22.5

15

1,500 IU/per day

1,000 mg/per day

Vitamin K (mcg)

120*

90*

None established

Minerals

     

Calcium (mg)

1,100

1,100

2,500

Chromium (mcg)

35 *

25 *

Not known

Copper (mcg)

900

900

10,000 mcg

Iodine (mcg)

150

150

1,100 mcg

Iron (mg)

8

18 to 8

45 mg

Magnesium (mg)

420

320

350 mg from supplements only

Manganese (mg)

2.3 *

1.8 *

11 mg

Molybdenum (mcg)

45

45

2,000 mcg or 2 mg

Phosphorus (mg)

700

700

4,000 mg or 4 g

Potassium (mg)

4,700

4,700

Click the link below for information on Potassium toxicity

Selenium (mcg)

55

55

400 mcg

Zinc (mg)

11

8

40 mg

Choline (mg)

550 *

425 *

3.5 grams

Sam Montana © 02 February 2009

Nutritional chart for older adults

Linus Pauling Institute study of all vitamins

Vitamin D studies

Toxicity of potassium

1 comment

EJ Heinrich
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Posted on Jul 2, 2013