Before You Throw Out Your Multivitamin, Read This….

Headlines are reporting that multivitamins are a waste of money. That may be true – but not because we don’t need to supplement when we have a dietary deficiency. Rather, because many multivitamins contain too little or too much of the nutrients, plus plant extracts and other totally unnecessary ingredients.

Rather than blasting all multivitamins, people should take a careful look at what they are consuming.

A research study in the Journal of Pediatrics found that 4 out of 5 children younger than 8 are getting more than the safe levels of three multivitamin nutrients: zinc, folic acid, and vitamin A; and less than a sufficient level of four nutrients: vitamin D, calcium, vitamin K, and magnesium.

The NIH says that multivitamins are “products of widely varied compositions and characteristics”, but that  “Scientific evidence shows that some dietary supplements are beneficial for overall health and for managing some health conditions.”

What this shows is that multivitamins may be poorly formulated rather than showing that all vitamins and minerals should be discarded.  What we really need is better multivitamins.

What makes some supplements superior? Multivitamins may have massive doses of some nutrients and microscopic doses of others. Also, some compounds that are used in multivitamins do not get into the body in sufficient amounts regardless of the amount listed on the product label. Magnesium is a common example. The form that is most commonly used in supplements because of the lower cost is magnesium oxide – and only 4% is taken into the body. Magnesium citrate is more optimal but less used in multivitamins at the expense of their quality and perhaps our safety.

True to this point, Institute for Better Bone Health does not offer a “multivitamin”.  Silical 1, which contains two commonly supplemented nutrients – calcium and vitamin D - is not offered by itself because it is not effective without other select vitamins and minerals. They are specially formulated to work together to complete nutritional needs specific to bone health. That’s why we say that supplements are just one part of a bone health program that must include a healthy diet, exercise, and a healthy lifestyle.

Even those experts who do not agree with supplementing do agree that foods are the best way to obtain necessary vitamins and minerals.  Foods also provide flavenoids and micronutrients which have powerful medicinal properties.  We are all encouraged to eat a healthier diet, but as a society we can’t seem to get motivated. Dietary habits in the US continue to deteriorate.

Supplements are not a substitute for a poor diet. A supplement in not going to turn around your nutrition if you routinely eat fast food. But they do provide an alternative for some of the nutrients that are missing. Vitamin D insufficiency has reached epidemic proportions and that is widely reported. Studies also show widespread insufficiencies of many other vitamins, but they don’t make headlines.

Does supplementation matter for bone health? One study showed that calcium and vitamin D supplementation following hip fractures decreased death rates by 36% in women and 43% in men. Those are substantial results.

It may be as irresponsible of the media to suggest that all multivitamins are bad, just as it is irresponsible to advocate that all multivitamins are good. We need to push for sound research, higher manufacturing standards, and quality control. Only in this way will supplements be appropriate and useful.

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