I recently came across a widely circulated article on the internet by a Philadelphia M.D. discussing what you “need” in a multivitamin. I actually met the author of this article in the late 1990s when she was a premed student in Philadelphia, and we often spoke about her interest in complementary/alternative medicine.
But, apparently, she still has a way to go in her understanding of dietary supplements. As you know, I always advise against one-a-day multivitamin supplements. Here’s why…
First, you can never get what you need nutritionally in a single multivitamin pill.
Second, if the author had bothered to read what she wrote and literally “done the math,” she would know the dosages don’t add up. You can’t get everything she recommends in a single pill. (Unless a veterinarian prescribes your multivitamin, like the horse pills prescribed by Dr. Quackenbush in one of the Marx Brothers movies.)
Finally, and perhaps saddest of all, is that half of the recommendations she gives are about half right. So how are you supposed to know the difference when even the expert doesn’t get it?
It’s worth reviewing some of these details again. Especially because I know people who are trying to do the right thing for their dietary supplementation read this kind of nonsense every day.
So — let’s get to it…
Getting it wrong from A – Z
In the article, the expert said you should take vitamin A in the form of the pre-vitamin A called beta-carotene.
Then she said, by contrast, to take actual vitamin A as palmitate or retinol.
Wrong again. And potentially dangerous.
You’re better off getting your vitamin A from a balanced diet that includes leafy greens and yellow-orange fruits and vegetables with a natural mixture of carotenoids that provide vitamin A and other healthy constituents. Including dairy, eggs, meat, and fish into your diet will provide the rest.
The only B vitamin the expert mentioned is folic acid. She said you should take 400 micrograms.
But you need a complete B complex, in doses large enough to warrant a complete dietary supplement all on their own.
Next, the doctor recommended 60 mg of vitamin C per day. But then — a moment later — she said you actually need 250-500 mg per day.
To be clear, the second number is right. But you should take 250 mg twice daily so your body can absorb it.
Then the doctor moved on to vitamin D. She recommended you take 2,000 to 4,000 IU per day of vitamin D3, which is moving in the right direction. But then it would take up way too much space in a single dietary supplement. Plus, I always recommend taking 10,000 IU per day in liquid form, added to a healthy beverage.
She then recommended 30 IU per day of vitamin E because it’s hard to get vitamin E in your diet. I agree, even that paltry amount is hard to get in your diet alone. She also recommends 100 to 400 IU daily of alpha-tocopherol. Again, moving in the right direction, but once again, fitting doses that large into a single supplement — along with all the other nutrients in the appropriate quantities — is quite difficult, if not completely impossible.
I recommend 50 mg of vitamin E per day, as a formula that contains all eight forms of vitamin E, not just alpha-tocopherol. You can also incorporate more vitamin E-rich foods into your diet. Some of the best sources are nuts, seeds, spinach, and eggs. (Note that the vitamin E in eggs is found in the yolk. So be sure to eat the whole egg — not just the white.)
The expert then veered off course and recommended taking a separate supplement with 200 to 300 mg per day of calcium.
Half wrong. And — ultimately — all wrong.
On the one hand, this expert knows you can’t get that much calcium in a multi. But on the other hand, she doesn’t understand that calcium supplements are dangerous at any dose.
As I always advise, you should always get your calcium from a balanced diet. If you have enough vitamins C and D, and magnesium (see below), you will not have a calcium problem. Your body has huge stores of calcium (if it’s not poisoned by toxic bone density drugs — which you can read more about in the January 2015 issue of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter).
The author goes on to say your multi should provide 200 to 300 mg of magnesium per day.
Almost there. But I recommend 400 mg per day. And in any case, she is running out of room in that tiny little multivitamin pill.
The author said your multi should provide 100 to 200 micrograms of selenium per day. Which might be the only dose she mentioned that could actually fit in a single supplement.
So — here we have another expert who is half-right about vitamin and mineral dietary supplements. But, apparently, she doesn’t know enough to stop and try to add up all the ingredients. If she knew anything about the technical requirements of dietary supplement formulation, she’d know that they literally don’t fit into one pill.
The fact is, we’re not the Jetsons. We can’t get it all in a single little pill.
So — forget the useless and poorly formulated multivitamins. Decide what supplements are right for you and get the proper formulations. You won’t find everything you need in any single multivitamin supplement.
You will learn what you need to know here in the Daily Dispatch and in my monthly newsletter, Insiders’ Cures. If you’re not yet a newsletter subscriber, now is the perfect time to become one.