MYTH: One multi-vitamin tablet per day is all I need to keep healthy.
TRUTH: It all depends on whether you want minimal health or optimal health.
Published guidelines for vitamin and mineral intakes (RDAs, RDIs) are woefully inadequate for building and maintaining optimal health. These guidelines were established generations ago, and were based on the minimum amounts of nutrients that researchers believed would prevent advanced deficiency diseases, such as scurvy, beri beri, pellagra, rickets, and goitre. Their focus was on the absence of disease rather than on building health. Since then, nutritional knowledge has been growing exponentially.
For those adults who wish to achieve and maintain vibrant good health or “wellness”, the following daily levels may be considered “optimal daily intakes” (ODIs) for dietary supplements:
Vitamin A (10,000 IU), Vitamin D-3 (800 IU), Vitamin E (400 IU), Vitamin C (1,500 mg), Vitamin B-1(50 mg), Vitamin B-2 (50 mg), Niacinamide (50 mg), Pantothenic Acid (100 mg), Vitamin B-6 (50 mg), Folic Acid (1 mg), Vitamin B-12 (330 mcg), Biotin (120 mcg), Choline (120 mg), Inositol (50 mg), Calcium (800 mg), Magnesium (500 mg), Potassium (400 mg), Iron (22 mg), Manganese (15 mg), Zinc (25 mg), Silicon (20 mg), Iodine (0.8 mg), Chromium (220 mcg), Selenium (200 mcg), Molybdenum (22 mcg), Vanadium (10 mcg).
HOW TO CHOOSE MULTI-VITAMINS
This presentation shares with you some principles and guidelines I have learned over the years in formulating high potency natural source dietary supplements. Much of the information herein comes from actual experience rather than theory. Textbook explanations vary from incomplete fragments to overwhelming details, many of which are irrelevant to health consumers. Promotional literature tends to focus selectively on partial truths intended to make one supplier’s product seem superior to others. The overall truth, however, is incredibly simple. However complex nutritional biochemistry may be, it can be reduced to basic principles that are easy to grasp. Once you clearly understand which molecules are natural to the human body, everything else falls into place. With these guidelines you will be able to read the label of any vitamin-mineral product and instantly have a sense of whether or not it is really what you wish for yourself. – by David W. Rowland, Master Formulator
Optimal Amounts: One per day multi-vitamin tablets often contain only enough of key ingredients to prevent deficiency induced diseases (e.g., scurvy, beri beri, pellagra, goitre, rickets) – a poor insurance plan at best. Optimal health requires taking specific nutrients in much higher potencies than the tiny amounts suggested by published tables.
Optimal Absorption: The best way to take homogenous multi-vitamin tablets is in divided amounts with meals (e.g., 3 with breakfast, 2 with supper – or 2 with breakfast, 2 with lunch, 1 with supper). In this way, your body has multiple opportunities to assimilate what it needs, as it is able. Taking all five tablets at once may overwhelm your body with more than it can process, thus wasting a percentage of the nutrients for which you have paid good money.
Optimal absorption requires taking vitamins and minerals with food. Hydrochloric acid secreted by the stomach in order to digest food also facilitates the breakdown of mineral compounds (which breakdown is improved by the inclusion of Betaine Hydrochloride in the product.) In addition, the nutrients in the food and the nutrients in the tablets act as co-partners, supporting and enhancing each other.
How the body absorbs minerals (from both food and supplements) is by chelating them internally. Hydrochloric acid in the stomach facilitates the breakdown of mineral compounds into positively and negatively charged ions. (The intestinal wall, however, has a mild negative charge; positive ions tend to stick to it rather than be absorbed.) To the rescue come amino acids (from protein foods) which surround these mineral ions, neutralizing their electromagnetic charges and facilitating their absorption through the intestinal wall. If you take your mineral supplements with meals, expensive pre-chelated minerals are never necessary. Your body does its own chelating.
Natural Sources: Every ingredient in your multi-vitamin-mineral should consist of natural molecules that are bio-compatible with the human body. It is not easy to tell which ingredients are natural and which are artificial, because most have chemical sounding names. The following examples may be helpful.
Vitamin A: Retinol is the chemical name for natural vitamin A. Vitamin A palmitate (also called retinol palmitate) is the natural source raw material used in making vitamin supplements. Artificial vitamin A has a high potential for toxicity; however, the natural form is quite safe. There are no documented cases of harm in adults taking up to 100,000 IU of natural vitamin A daily.
Beta Carotene: Beta carotene consists of two molecules of retinol (vitamin A) bonded together. Vitamin A cannot be utilized from beta carotene until the liver enzymatically breaks this bond. Most diabetics and some people with hypothyroidism are unable to convert beta carotene into retinol efficiently, if at all. If you are diabetic or suspect that you may have low thyroid function, you are well advised to get your supplementary vitamin A from retinol palmitate rather than from beta carotene.
B-Vitamins: B-vitamins should be natural, pure microcrystalline vitamins ultimately derived from plant or fungal sources and standardized to ensure potency. Examples include thiamine hydrochloride, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, niacin, niacinamide, calcium pantothenate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, cobalamin, cyanocobalamin, folic acid and biotin.
Vitamin C: Ascorbic acid is made from plant sources and is bio-identical to the ascorbate molecule produced in the livers of mammals. It is made in exactly the same way that animals do, by exposing glucose to the same enzyme, l-gulonolactone oxidase. The actual acidity of ascorbic acid is quite mild – negligible when used in combination with multiple other ingredients.
Vitamin D: Vitamin D-3 (cholecalciferol) is the natural form of vitamin D and is quite safe in any amount that can be put into a tablet or capsule. The artificial version of this vitamin (D-2) has a greater potential for toxicity, especially when given in water-dispersible forms that bypass the liver’s ability to monitor its uptake.
Vitamin E: There are two natural forms of vitamin E: d-alpha tocopherol (fat-soluble) and d-alpha tocopheryl succinate (water dispersible). The artificial forms of vitamin E (dl-alpha), while harmless, are much less efficiently used by the body.
Chelated Minerals (e.g., proteinates, HVP chelates) are best used in multi formulas for micro-minerals (e.g., chromium, selenium, vanadium) because this is the most efficient delivery system for minerals required in tiny amounts. Chelated minerals typically provide only about 5% of the mineral in question; the other 95% being taken up by the amino acids that do the chelating. Using a powder that has 20 times the volume of the isolated micro-mineral ensures that it will be blended more uniformly with other ingredients that are present in much larger amounts.
Organic Minerals: Organic compounds (e.g., gluconates, fumarates, picolinates, orotates) are most efficiently utilized from supplements for iron, manganese, and zinc. [The term, “organic“ is used here in its biochemical sense, meaning simply a compound that contains carbon – the element common to all living things.] Organic mineral molecules are bonded together by co-valence and have a neutral electromagnetic charge that enables them to pass readily through the intestinal wall (which has a slight negative charge). Inorganic forms of iron (e.g., chloride, sulphate) tend to stick to the intestinal wall, causing poor absorption and constipation. Organic iron compounds (e.g., fumarate, gluconate) do not do this.
Inorganic Minerals: Some minerals are more efficiently utilized in multi formulas if they are in their inorganic form. [“Inorganic“ simply means “without carbon“.] These include the electrolyte minerals (calcium, magnesium, potassium) as well as iodine and silicon. Inorganic minerals are bonded by ionic valence and separate into positive and negative ions when broken down by hydrochloric acid in the stomach. Then, amino acids present in the stomach at the same time (from the digestion of food) surround these mineral ions, thus neutralizing their electromagnetic charge and enabling them to be transported through the intestinal wall. The body does its own chelating of minerals. This is how the body absorbs minerals from foods. The body uses positively charged calcium, magnesium and potassium ions – plus negatively charged chloride ions – as electrolytes to regulate fluid pressures, the flow of nerve impulses, and pH balance throughout the body.
Calcium Carbonate is one of the three natural forms of calcium found in human bones (the other two being calcium phospate and hydroxyapatite). Calcium carbonate is also the natural form of calcium found in oyster shell and coral calcium, two highly promoted supplements. Calcium carbonate provides approximately 40% calcium, making it the most efficient of the natural sources for purposes of supplementation. (Calcium lactate, for example, provides only 15% calcium and chelated forms of calcium about 5%.) If you take your calcium carbonate supplements with meals, they are just as well absorbed as any other form of calcium.
Magnesium Oxide: This molecule provides approximately 60% magnesium, making it the most efficient natural source of magnesium for purposes of supplementation. If you take your magnesium oxide supplements with meals, they are just as well absorbed as any other form of magnesium.
Chloride Molecules: The body utilizes chloride molecules from inorganic mineral compounds found in food and supplements (a) to manufacture stomach acid (hydrochloric acid), and (b) as an electrolyte to help regulate fluid pressures and the flow of nerve impulses. Thus, it is helpful if some of the ingredients in your multi formula contain the chloride molecule (e.g., betaine hydrochloride, potassium chloride, thiamine hydrochloride, pyridoxine hydrochloride).
Timed Release Vitamins: This is one of those ideas that works better in theory than in practice. During the manufacturing process, blended powders are segregated into several groups. Layers of a waxy coating are applied to varying thicknesses: one group receives no coating, a second group receives one layer, a third group receives two layers, and so on. The assumption is that digestive juices take time to work through the various layers of wax, progressively releasing vitamins as they go. Problem is that there are only so many feet of digestive tract through which the vitamins can be absorbed and only so much time in which it can be done. Those vitamins that end up in the right place at the right time can be absorbed; the rest end up in the toilet bowl. It makes more sense to take normal vitamins two or three times per day than it does to invest in the timed release concept.
Excipients: Every vitamin-mineral tablet necessarily must contain a small percentage of excipients. These are extra inert ingredients required to help powders flow freely through the machinery, to prevent tablets from sticking to the compression dies, and to ensure the integrity of the final tablet. Examples of completely natural excipients are Cellulose, Magnesium Stearate, Stearic Acid, Dicalcium Phosphate, Croscarmellose Sodium, Hydroxypropyl Cellulose, Hypromellose, and Silicon Dioxide. Fats are required to enable the powders to stick together so that the tablets retain their shape. The most natural fats for this purpose are stearic acid (from animal sources) and magnesium stearate (from plant sources).
Hypo-Allergenic: Low potency tablets and capsules may contain fillers such as lactose, corn starch, wheat flour, soy derivatives or various forms of sugar. All of these substances can trigger allergic reactions in people who are sensitive to them. Fillers are needed when the active ingredients alone are not of sufficient volume to fill the dies or capsules being used to make the product. With high potency vitamin-mineral products there is rarely a need for fillers. When there is, responsible manufacturers use Dicalcium Phosphate instead of the potentially allergenic options.
Mineral Absorption: If mineral supplements are taken with meals, there is no difference in their rate of absorption, regardless of the form that those minerals happen to be in. Always take mineral supplements with meals in order to enable the body to do its own chelating. The minerals need to be present with food for this to happen in the stomach. If digestion is weak, then overcome this weakness by taking supplementary digestive enzymes that will improve the body’s ability to utilize both food and supplements. This approach is far more effective for overall health than taking pre-chelated minerals which bypass digestive weakness. Chelated minerals may be better absorbed on an empty stomach but offer no particular advantage compared to minerals taken with food.
In one study, fasting subjects were given 500 mg. of calcium from each of five calcium compounds and milk. No significant differences in absorption were found among the various sources of calcium. The mean net calcium absorption in each case was 39% from calcium carbonate 32% from calcium acetate, 32% from calcium lactate, 31% from milk, 30% from calcium citrate, and 27% from calcium gluconate. Calcium from calcium carbonate is well absorbed if taken with a meal– even if stomach acid is otherwise too low. Calcium carbonate provides the highest amount of calcium (40%) of all supplementary sources (e.g., calcium citrate provides 24% and calcium gluconate 9%). Similarly, magnesium oxide provides the highest amount of magnesium (60%) and potassium chloride has the highest amount of potassium (52%).