Lately I’ve been walking around with a bunch of important blog topics on the brain that I just can’t wait to share anylonger. Let’s kick it off with: multivitamins!
Multivitamin supplements: do they work?
Months ago I quit taking my daily multivitamin, which I had been taking for years. I didn’t think too much about it at the time, I just sortof naturally and gradually ceased to take ‘em. Lately I’ve been putting some more thought into the whole aspect of multivitamins though and here’s my two cents, based on what I understand of human physiology and a few research papers I consulted.
In my opinion, multivitamin supplementation is a waste of money. Multivitamin products are not regulated like drugs and medicine are, meaning manufacturers don’t have to adhere to strict rules, which often results in poor quality products. It is a well-know fact that the quality of multivitamin products grossly vary per brand, and I think it’s tough for the consumer to figure out which are high-quality products and which are not.
More importantly, there seems to be a general consensus about the lack of bioavailability (absorption) of multivitamins, at least in pill and capsule form. Those pills and capsules are hard for your body to digest and break down, and it’s very hard to say what your body actually will absorp from that confusing 65454% of ADH/RDI number on the bottle.
Which leads me to my next point: do we really want to ingest43656897% of the ADH/RDI in pill form daily? On top of what we normally eat? If your diet is made up of McDs for breakfast, KFC for lunch and Burger King for dinner, I’d say go ahead and pop some multis. But if you’re eating a fairly healthy diet, adding such large amounts of vitamins to your body artificially might very well be overdoing it. (PS: this is even more so the case for isolated vitamin supplements in high dosages, like Vitamin C or vitamin B6). In a recent lecture at school I was stunned that getting too much vitamin C via supplementation + diet is not that unlikely, and is in fact toxic. The same goes for some B vitamins, and ALL fat-soluble vitamins (which are: A, D, E & K).
My biggest objection against multivitamins would have to be that it goes against nature, though. Bioavailability is one thing, bioequivelancy another. Let me elaborate. Say, your multi states it has 50% ADH/RDI for iron. How much of that iron content will your body actually absorp (bioavailability)? Say your body absorps most all of that iron (very unlikely…), does this iron behave the same way in your body as dietary iron (bioequivalance)? It may very well be that your body reacts differently towards this form of iron for a multitude of reasons. This iron could be chemically different from dietary iron, depending on it’s source (perhaps it’s synthetic?). Also, and most importantly, vitamins and minerals have been shown to work synergistic. One nutrient will influence the other. In nature, nutrients are present in certain ratios and combinations in food, and they are certainly accompanied by a myriad of nutrients that are still unknown to scientists as we speak. So what does this mean for multivitamin supplements? In multivitamins, all regard for this essential synergy is disregarded, which very likely deminishes the benefit of all these nutrients, and may even have an undesirable effect on the body.
If you fear your diet might be lacking in something, or you eat healthily but you still feel less than stellar, it’s time for a standard check-up from your GP. Tests like these are not 100% conclusive but they are able to get you a good overview of what might be lacking. Of course, it’s also wise to asses your diet in terms of essential nutrients from time to time if you feel like diving into the theory (I did two big posts on vitamins and minerals , go check it out!
Take for example iron. You could find out through a test your iron levels are too low, or you figured out your iron needs are higher because of an intense exercise routine, or you just went vegetarian/vegan and you want to make sure you’re taking in enough. Instead of taking a multivitamin, or even iron pills for that matter, it would be so much better to find some top notch iron sources and make sure to include those daily. This way you’re giving your body what it needs in a non-invasive way. This goes for all essential nutrients.
Of course, some nutrients are harder to obtain through diet in certain circumsances. Like vitamin B12 and vitamin D for vegans. Or when a diertary approach hasn’t helped you. In cases like this, I would advice taking isolated supplements. This way you can adjust the amount to what you need, and you won’t risk the chance of taking in too much (synthetic) nutrients your body doesn’t need! This way, you can also opt for a more bioavailble form of the nutrient, like a shot or liquid drops.
Really, when it comes to multivitamins, I think the better safe than sorry mentality should be reversed. Instead of taking multivitamins to be better safe than sorry, people should not take multivitamins, as to rather be safe than sorry, and instead focus on dietary sources for nutrients and individualized supplementation when needed.
What about you, do you take multivitamins? Why (not)?