Choosing a Multiple Vitamin

You may have heard people say that if you are eating the right foods, you shouldn’t need to take a multiple vitamin-mineral supplement. However, even a healthy diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables might not be providing you with all the minerals and vitamins that you need. Generations of farming the same land over and over again have depleted the soil of vitamins and minerals.  Soil depletion means that the fruits and vegetables of today are not as nutritious as they were just decades ago. To make up for this loss of nutrients in our food, we recommend that everyone find a good quality multiple vitamin-mineral (MVM) supplement to meet their daily nutrition requirements and keep their body healthy.


What does the research on MVM supplements say?

Studies have shown that MVM supplements help the body in many different ways. One double-blind study found that taking an MVM supplement significantly reduced anxiety and perceived stress levels, and possibly improved energy and the ability to concentrate (Psychopharmacology 2000;150:220–5).

Other preliminary and double-blind trials have shown that MVM supplements containing folic acid can prevent birth defects. Women who take an MVM supplement with folic acid beginning three months before pregnancy and continuing through the first trimester of pregnancy saw a significantly lower risk of having a baby with neural tube defects (such as spina bifida) and other congenital defects.

Vitamin supplements can help children perform better later on in life, too. Another double-blind trial measured intellectual performance in schoolchildren. The children received a daily low-potency vitamin-mineral tablet that contained only half of the US recommended daily allowance for the most essential vitamins. After three months, dramatic gains in certain measures of IQ were found in 20% of the schoolchildren. One theory regarding these findings is that by correcting certain deficiencies (such as iron), the children were able to perform better on IQ tests.

What minerals and vitamins are in an MVM supplement?

The main reason people take MVM supplements is because they are a convenient way to get a wide variety of nutrients at once. They cannot, however, replace a healthy diet. MVM supplements can only enhance the amount of nutrients taken in with a healthy diet.

MVM supplements should always include certain micronutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin B-complex, vitamin B6, folic acid, vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin D3, and vitamin E.  Minerals such as calcium, zinc, magnesium, iodine, copper, selenium, manganese, chromium, and molybdenum should also be included.

Many MVMs also contain insignificant amounts of flavonoids, choline, inositol, quercetin, herbs and various amino acids. These are usually negligible amounts.

What minerals and vitamins are not in an MVM supplement?

Another essential mineral is phosphorus, but it’s rarely included in MVM supplements because most people get enough phosphorus in their regular diets as it’s so abundant. Elderly people, however, may find that they need to take a phosphorus supplement because of poor diet or poor digestion. Also, elderly people who are taking a calcium supplement may want to consider taking a phosphorus supplement, as calcium can prevent the body from absorbing phosphorus efficiently.
Potassium and iron are usually not included in MVM supplements because the body is pretty good at recycling these minerals. Potassium is abundant in many different types of foods. Two servings a day or broccoli, bananas, sweet potatoes, or avocados will give you all the potassium you need.

MVMs usually do not include much, if any, iron because too much iron in the body can be a bad thing. Children’s vitamin supplements exclude iron because of the real risk of iron poisoning: a handful of candy-like chewable vitamins taken by mistake could lead to a dangerous toxic emergency if they contained iron.

Some MVMs include iron, but these should only be used by people who have been diagnosed with an iron deficiency, those who are at risk of developing an iron deficiency, or those who have a history or recurring iron deficiency.

Is one MVM supplement enough for me?

You may find that it is beneficial for you to take additional supplements of certain vitamins and minerals in addition to a healthy diet and an MVM supplement. For example, many people find it helpful to take additional amounts of vitamin C, magnesium, vitamin D, vitamin E, and calcium. You may also want to consider taking a separate folic acid and B-12 supplement (never take folic acid alone without B-12).

What about those “one-per-day” multivitamins?

One-per-day MVMs may seem like a convenient way to get all of your nutrients in one dose. However they usually don’t include sufficient amounts of many vitamins and minerals such as vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin C. Many One-per-day MVMs do not even include the minimum recommended daily amounts of these nutrients.
MVMs requiring three or more pills per day are preferable to One-per-day MVMs. High-potency MVMs that require several capsules or tablets per day also allow the nutrient intake to be spread out over two or three meals during the day. Additionally, vitamin and mineral intake can be easily adjusted using these types of MVMs by just adding or subtracting doses.

Are capsules or tablets better?

Some multiple vitamin-minerals are available as powders or liquids inside a capsule that can be mixed with a drink to be taken. Others are available in the classic tablet form with which we’re all familiar. Either version should be just as effective. Capsules are usually smaller than tablets, which may be better for people who have trouble swallowing.

Some people are concerned that tablets won’t break down quickly enough in the stomach to allow the nutrients to be properly absorbed. Absorption shouldn’t be a concern with good-quality tablets, as they will dissolve quickly and completely after being ingested. If you’re worried that your brand isn’t dissolving fast enough, there’s a simple test you can do at home. Take one of your MVM tablets and place it in about a cup of white vinegar, which will recreate the acidic environment of your stomach. To simulate the churning of your stomach and body movement, stir the solution occasionally. The tablet should be fully dissolved within 30 minutes. If the supplement is still intact after a half-hour, look for another brand.

Another concern is the smell of capsules or tablets. The way a supplement smells is usually caused by the B vitamins in the MVM reacting with other ingredients. When MVMs are improperly stored in warm or wet conditions, this reaction is accelerated, causing the B vitamins to bleed through leading to discoloration and foul odors. While this doesn’t necessarily affect the potency of the capsule or tablet, the smell can be a problem for some people. To prevent this from happening,  keep the MVM supplements in a cool and dry place.

How do I know if I’m taking a high-quality MVM supplement?

Look at the sources of the vitamins on the label, specifically vitamin D and vitamin E.   Vitamin D should be D3 or cholecalciferol. If your vitamin D contains ergocalciferol, that is the synthetic form D2, instead, seek a brand containing cholecalciferol.  Now check the vitamin E. This should be d-alpha tocopherol or even better, mixed tocopherol. It should not be the synthetic form dl-alpha tocopherol.

Other clues to the quality of your MVM can be found in the “other ingredients” section. Don’t buy vitamins that contain artificial preservatives, sweeteners, colors or dyes. If you see ingredients such as the artificial sweeteners aspartame, saccharin or sucralose or artificial colors like FD&C blue #1 or yellow #6, choose a different brand.

Acceptable natural sweeteners are sucrose, fructose, stevia or xylitol. Keep in mind that some people are sensitive to the sweeteners in MVMs. If your stomach is upset after taking your MVM, consider switching to one with a different natural sweetener.

When should I take my MVM supplement?

The best time to take vitamins and minerals is with a meal.  Taking vitamins with a meal gives your body the best chance to absorb the nutrients in the MVM along with the minerals and vitamins in your food. Taking MVMs with a meal can also prevent upset stomach, as well.

Is a high-potency MVM supplement enough?

As mentioned earlier, the food we’re eating today is just not as nutritious as it was a generation ago. While it is still important to maintain a healthy diet, you might not be getting everything you need from healthy eating alone. Supplementing your diet with a high-potency MVM along with other individual supplements is the best way to make up for these shortfalls.

A consultation is the best way to find out what vitamins and minerals you may be lacking.  Schedule an appointment on-line or call us at 773.878.7330 for more information.





Federal Law requires that we warn you of the following: 
1. The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only.

2. Your individual health status and any required health care treatments can only be properly addressed by a professional healthcare provider of your choice. Remember: There is no adequate substitution for a personal consultation with your chosen health care provider. Therefore, we encourage you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified health care professional.

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