The Multivitamin: Is It Necessary?

As a prac­ti­tion­er, I struggle with the mul­tiv­it­am­in. Why, you ask?

Metabolic Nutrition — One of my favour­ite mul­tiv­it­am­ins

In the­ory, the mul­tiv­it­am­in is a good concept. Just as life has pros and cons, ebb and flow, it is dif­fi­cult to eat con­sist­ent quant­it­ies and qual­it­ies of foods that provide con­tinu­ous and adequate amounts of the nutri­ents we need. In fact, con­sid­er­ing most people eat 2 decent meals daily when they really should be hav­ing 3 + snacks, I know most of you are not get­ting adequate vit­am­ins and min­er­als through your diet. In addi­tion, there is a lot of con­fu­sion about what foods are the right foods to eat for the right pur­poses.

Enter the mul­tiv­it­am­in, where in one little pill you can cov­er your basics all in one shot.

Or can you?

The mar­ket for vit­am­ins has changed immensely in the last 10 – 15 years. My memory of mul­tiv­it­am­ins is com­pletely unswal­low­able mis­siles that you need to choke back, and they smelled funny (well, except for Flintstones’ vit­am­ins which tasted like candy).

Multivitamins have vastly improved since then. However, if you pur­chase a mul­tiv­it­am­in without the right nutri­ent edu­ca­tion, I am not sure you will be feel­ing phys­ic­ally dif­fer­ent oth­er than the psy­cho­lo­gic­al relief of know­ing you might be doing some­thing good for your body.

So how do you without med­ic­al know­ledge recog­nize the kind of vit­am­ins you might need on a daily basis? How can you dis­tin­guish what is a good mul­tiv­it­am­in and what is a bad mul­tiv­it­am­in? Here are a few tips:

  1. Fillers and col­ours should not be in your vit­am­in. You should not be see­ing the words soy lecith­in, lact­ate, lactose, etc. These are food fillers that are really get­ting in the way of absorp­tion. Neither should there be pre­ser­vat­ives or arti­fi­cial col­ours. If you are just tak­ing back the multi, what does it mat­ter what col­our it is?
  2. If you need to take too many vit­am­ins to meet the daily amount, what is actu­ally in each pill? For example, the 1 mg dose of thiam­in (B1) found in a typ­ic­al multi would not be adequate to com­pensate for the occa­sion­al night of imbib­ing on too much wine with din­ner (in which thiam­ine becomes rap­idly depleted fyi…)
  3. Lower beta-carotene — Found in car­rots and highly bene­fi­cial in a food source, high beta-carotene (+10,000 IU) has been linked to increased incid­ence of can­cer in a sup­ple­men­ted form, espe­cially in indi­vidu­als with heart dis­ease and a his­tory of smoking.
  4. Lower vit­am­in E — Vitamin E is a fant­ast­ic fat-sol­uble vit­am­in how­ever it can con­trib­ute to car­di­ovas­cu­lar epis­odes in the wrong chem­ic­al com­pos­i­tion. Great on the sur­face of the skin; not won­der­ful intern­ally in excess­ive dosages for every med­ic­al con­di­tion.
  5. Decent pro­por­tions of B vit­am­ins — More than 5 mg per B vit­am­in is import­ant. To prop­erly sup­ple­ment the B’s, nor­mally 20 – 25 mg is where we can start. B5 for example can start at 100 mg/​day (please do not sup­ple­ment without your doctor’s approv­al at high­er dosages). Each B has an optim­um range.
  6. Balanced cal­ci­um and mag­nesi­um — Like a big sis­ter and little sis­ter, these go as pairs.
  7. Balanced zinc and cop­per — Again, in pairs. Too much of one throws off the oth­er.
  8. Vitamin D — At LEAST 1,000 IU.
  9. B12 — This is best sup­ple­men­ted under the tongue if you are truly defi­cient, and so if you are B12-defi­cient, a multi-vit­am­in will not be adequate.
  10. Iron should not really be in your multi and should always be sep­ar­ate. There are sev­er­al reas­ons for this, but the short explan­a­tion is that not every­one needs iron (men as an example). When you do need iron, you will need far more than what can be sup­plied in a mul­tiv­it­am­in, and it would be far more use­ful to sup­ply use­ful iron at that time at dosages and com­pos­i­tion that is tailored to you.
  11. Your multi should actu­ally be expens­ive, in the ball park range of $30 – $40. If you are get­ting that many nutri­ents in one bottle, why should it be $9?

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