I know many of you have seen the headlines that I have proclaiming that “multivitamins are a waste of money” or “don’t work.” This media buzz was caused by an editorial published in the Annals of Internal Medicine with the headline, “Enough is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements.”
For this editorial, the researchers cited results from two recent studies—one showing multivitamins don’t prevent a cardiac event after a heart attack, and the other showing they don’t prevent cognitive decline in men. This is like looking at a study of whether salmon alone can prevent a heart attack—and when it doesn’t, telling people to stop eating salmon. It’s silly.
In order to have a serious impact on cognitive decline or heart vulnerability, you need to take the right targeted nutrients. For cognitive decline, it’s essential to take mixed tocotrienols in order to improve oxygenation to the brain, as well as DHA omega-3s. For heart support, it’s essential to take Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), L-carnitine, magnesium, and D-Ribose. A multivitamin isn’t going to provide this type of targeted support.
Now, why do people need to take a multivitamin? The biggest reason is that our environment is very toxic, exposing us to heavy metals, insecticides, pesticides, radiation, and trans-fats. And multivitamins help your body to overcome that oxidative stress. In fact, I call a multivitamin a form of health insurance.
Some people might argue that if you eat a healthy diet you don’t need a multivitamin. The problem, however, is that our diets are laced with genetically modified foods, antibiotic laced poultry, feed lot cattle, and more. All of these things put enormous stress on our bodies. Taking a multivitamin and mineral supplement helps us to make up the deficit—especially mineral incorporation in body. Plus, multivitamins and minerals help to neutralize the harmful free radicals and oxidative stress that our bodies are under. Vitamin C is a prime example...
Even though many of us do get 60 mg of vitamin C in our diets, there are large groups of people who are deficient in vitamin C despite the fact that they are taking in more than the RDA in their diets. For example, smokers, the elderly, and women on birth control pills require larger amounts of vitamin C for optimizing their health and they must take it as a supplement.
There’s no question that multivitamins are powerful, and the research proves it. For example, studies show that taking just 200 mg of vitamin C a day can help to delay the onset of cataracts for 10 years. We also know that folic acid helps to prevent birth defects, and that vitamin D can help to keep bones strong and prevent metabolic syndrome. On the mineral side, magnesium—to cite one example—has prevented sudden cardiac death.
Finally, when it comes to multivitamin and mineral supplements you need to carefully define what’s in the supplements. I’m sure the researchers for these studies chose good quality multivitamin and mineral supplements. But some of the meta-analysis studies they looked at could have contained lead or other heavy metals, or unsafe dosages of specific nutrients.
These are some of the reasons I started to formulate my own supplements. I wanted to be 100% sure that the nutrients I’m taking—and recommending to you—are completely safe. This means that the dosages are within safe limits, and that they are free of contaminants. This is extremely important. For example, I’ve always believed that vitamin E in high dosages can have a pro-oxidant effect. In the cardiac study referenced in this editorial, they used 400 units of tocopherol succinate and d-alpha tocopherol acetate. I feel this is a little bit too much, especially when there are no mixed tocopherols. Without gamma tocopherol, the peroxynitrite radical may not be neutralized, possibly putting people at risk.
If I was formulating a study for cardiac vulnerability, I would certainly not use such high dose vitamin A. I would have also increased the vitamin D, added mixed tocopherols to vitamin E, and choose different forms of magnesium. As far as the copper and manganese go, they are too high. Even though copper at 2 mg is the recommended daily allowance, if excess copper is taken in the diet—which is frequently the case—this amount of copper in a multi could create a pro-oxidant effect.
Vitamin and mineral studies will continue to go on indefinitely. There are going to be some good studies and some bad studies. But in the final analysis we have to all look at why we take these supplements—and the bottom line reason is that they protect our health.
Now it’s your turn: What’s your opinion on these studies?