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What to look for in a QUALITY multivitamin

While in pharmacy school, I took a Pharmacotherapy class. In this class, the professors role-played as patients while the pharmacy students were the pharmacists. They would come up with different conditions and ask for recommendations for over the counter (OTC) treatments. One professor specifically at the end of his rant would always ask the pharmacy student (aka pharmacist) if Centrum Silver was a good vitamin to take. I always heard the same answer from all my fellow colleagues, “sure,” knowing good and well that they truly had no idea. And I’m not going to lie, if I had been one of the lucky students to get this question from this professor, I would have said the same thing. But it would definitely not be the way I’d answer today. It amazes me some of the things that they leave out in pharmacy school, including supplements and more importantly, how to determine what a quality supplement actually consists of. I had to educate myself on this very important topic outside of school, so I could give patients who asked if Centrum Silver was a good vitamin a more educated answer than just “sure.”

I think it is safe to say that most of us know that good nutrition promotes health, while nutritional deficiencies can lead to many chronic diseases. I also think it is safe to say that most of us are nutrient deficient even if we believe we are eating healthy. These nutritional deficiencies can be caused by several things, including nutrient depleted soils, food storage methods, food processing techniques, food additives, medications, alcohol consumption, smoking, heavy metal exposure and high stress levels. In fact, more than 80% of Americans consume less than the recommended daily allowance (RDA) in select nutrients. For these reasons, it is important to take a daily multivitamin, and more importantly a superior quality multivitamin designed to support the ideal daily intake of vitamins and minerals in the most bioavailable form.

Before we get into the real science behind quality multivitamins, there’s an important term, bioavailability, that needs to be defined. Bioavailability is proportion of a drug that enters the circulation when introduced into the body and so is able to have an active effect. Bioavailability is perhaps the most important feature to consider when choosing a multivitamin. If you are taking a multivitamin that has little effect if any at all on improving your body’s nutrient balance, what’s the point in taking it? Inferior multivitamins, such as Centrum, often contain the cheapest of the cheap rock-salt minerals, such as calcium carbonate and magnesium oxide. These mineral forms have slow and minimal absorption relying on adequate stomach acid to promote adequate absorption. Because they absorb so slowly, they end up sitting in the intestines longer causing undue intestinal distress, such as constipation (calcium carbonate) or diarrhea (magnesium oxide). As for Vitamin E, Centrum contains the dl-tocopherol form; this is a way to “water-down” the d form, which is the natural, more bioavailable, and more expensive form of Vitamin E, to keep costs down. The d form of Vitamin E has increased bioavailability, and therefore increased antioxidant potential to minimize free radical damage. Furthermore, with B vitamin concentrations so low, Centrum will have no effect on energy levels.

When looking to get the most benefit from minerals in a multivitamin, you are going to want to look for mineral chelates, a specialized form of minerals bound to amino acids. When amino acids are attached to minerals, they will be more readily absorbed. In addition to being more readily absorbed by the body, mineral chelates tend to be much gentler on the gut, so you don’t have to worry about constipation that is typically seen with calcium carbonate. I don’t think I have to even say it, but there are obviously no mineral chelates in Centrum.

Now let’s move on to the inactive ingredient list, the stuff that is thrown in there to incorporate all of these vitamins and minerals into one convenient to take tablet. The list of binding agents, color additives and other excipients in Centrum is extensive. In fact, there is just about as many inactive ingredients in Centrum as there is active ingredients! Why?! A quality multivitamin should have very little if any fillers or additives, contain no gluten, yeast, or artificial colors or flavors. Also, the multivitamin should come in capsule form vs tablet form. The reason for this is our bodies are much better equipped at breaking down a capsule rather than a very compacted tablet.

I’m sure you are probably asking yourself at this point, “well, what quality multivitamin should I be taking?” After doing my research, there is only one multivitamin that I will recommend and sell at Custom Meds, and that’s OrthoMolecular’s Alpha Base. It has all the right forms of vitamins and minerals without all of the unnecessary fillers and additives.

Remember, it’s your health. Do your research, or at least ask someone who has the knowledge to give you a very educated answer. Don’t just accept “sure” when it comes to your wellbeing.

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