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How to Choose a Multivitamin
How to Choose a Multivitamin
There’s no substitute for a healthy diet, but proper nutritional supplementation can be just as important as eating the right foods. Although some experts say you can theoretically meet all of your nutritional needs through diet alone, the reality is that most Americans do not come close to obtaining optimal levels of vitamins and minerals from the foods they eat. In an effort to increase intake of essential nutrients, many people turn to vitamin and mineral supplements.
According to research published in the 2011 issue of the Journal of Nutrition, more than 70 percent of Americans now regularly take vitamin or mineral supplements. It seems that taking supplements has become a way of life for most people, though 67 percent of supplement users take only one supplement—usually a multiple vitamin and mineral product.
Unfortunately, most people taking a multiple vitamin and mineral formula are still not getting what they really need, because they’re being misled into thinking that a one-a-day type multiple is fully meeting their needs for optimum nutrition. While many one-a-day supplements provide good levels of vitamins, they are woefully insufficient in levels of minerals.
Giving your body what it needs
For optimum health, a high-quality multiple vitamin and mineral supplement is an absolute necessity. So what makes a multiple “high quality”? It's one that provides the right levels of both vitamins and minerals—the important building blocks your body needs in order to create and maintain health.
The following recommendations provide an optimum intake range to help you select a high-quality multiple. (Note that different vitamins and minerals are measured in different units: IU is international units, mg is milligrams and mcg is micrograms.)
|Vitamin Range||for Adults|
|Vitamin A (retinol) a||2,500–5,000 IU|
|Vitamin A (from beta-carotene)||5,000–25,000 IU|
|Vitamin B1 (thiamin)||10–100 mg|
|Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)||10–50 mg|
|Vitamin B3 (niacin)||10–100 mg|
|Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)||25–100 mg|
|Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)||25–100 mg|
|Vitamin B12 (cobalamin)||400 mcg|
|Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)||250–500 mg|
|Vitamin D b||600–2,000 IU|
|Vitamin E (d-alpha tocopherol)||100–400 IU|
|Folic acid||400–800 mcg|
|Mineral Range||for Adults|
|Calcium c||250–1,000 mg|
|Iron d||15–30 mg|
a Women of childbearing age who may become pregnant should not take more than 2,500 IU of retinol daily due to the possible risk of birth defects. (Note: Beta-carotene is safe during pregnancy and lactation).
b People living in northern latitudes should supplement at the high range.
c Women should take 800 to 1,000 mg of calcium to reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
d Men and postmenopausal women rarely need supplemental iron.
To find a multiple vitamin and mineral formula that meets these criteria, read labels carefully. Be aware that you will not be able to find a formula that can provide all of these nutrients at these levels in one single pill—it would simply be too large. Usually it will require at least four to six tablets to meet these levels.
In addition to the enormous number of studies showing benefits from individual nutrients in a high-potency multiple, studies have shown that people taking a multiple vitamin and mineral formula may experience higher energy levels, improved brain function, fewer colds or infections, improved ability to deal with stress, greater sense of wellbeing and other health benefits.
Many people, however, will not feel any change. Don’t let that fool you into believing the increased nutrient levels aren’t doing anything—plenty of their benefits happen behind the scenes. For example, people taking nutritional supplements may have a lowered risk for heart disease, cancer, cataracts and other degenerative diseases.
According to a very large study of nurses published in 1998 in the Annals of Internal Medicine, women taking a multiple vitamin and mineral formula for more than 14 years had a 75 percent reduced rate of colon cancer. While it is extremely unlikely that these women felt the protection they were being given by their supplement, they definitely realized the benefits.
Editor's Note: This article was excerpted with permission from Dr. Murray's book, What The Drug Companies Won't Tell You And Your Doctor Doesn't Know (Atria Books 2009).
Dr. Murray is president and CEO of Dr. Murray Natural Living and director of product development and education for Natural Factors, a major manufacturer of nutritional and herbal supplements. Dr. Murray is a graduate and faculty member of and serves on the Board of Regents of Bastyr University, where he received his doctorate in naturopathic medicine. He is coauthor of A Textbook of Natural Medicine and the Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. He has also written more than 20 other books, including Dr. Murray's Total Body Tune-Up, The Pill Book Guide to Natural Medicines and The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. For more information, visit DoctorMurray.com.
June 21st, 2012