Do we need multivitamins ? There is no doubt that our diet should be our main source of vitamins and nutrients. I know it sounds cliché, but, we really are what we eat. Focusing on a whole food diet is paramount. In a perfect world, we shouldn’t have to rely on vitamins and supplements to get the nutrients we could be getting through food. But sadly, as discussed in the previous section, today’s food supply does not provide us with the nutrients it once did.

Let’s face it, there is so much information out there about vitamins and supplements that it can get quite confusing. Which one should you take? If you are taking some, are you taking the right ones?

In recent years, there has been a lot of controversy over whether or not supplements are needed. Critics claim that supplements are a waste of money because we can get all of what we need from our diet. I agree that quality does matter when it comes to vitamins and supplements. But, to deny that industrial farming and the reliance on synthetic fertilizer have negatively impacted valuable micronutrients in our soils is plain silly. The   soil depletion has real consequences, in terms of the nutrients available to us in food.

To top it off, most clinical studies on vitamins use flawed methodology, often reaching negative conclusions. Researchers study the effects of nutrients like they would evaluate the effects of a prescription drug. Most clinical studies do not identify the baseline nutritional inadequacies of a person’s diet; without this information, it becomes almost impossible to make accurate clinical conclusions. 

WHY ARE VITAMINS IMPORTANT?

Vitamins are organic compounds vital to our bodies’ basic functions. They play an important role in numerous enzyme reactions in our body. Since our bodies can’t manufacture vitamins, they need to be ingested through diet or supplements. This comes with the exception of Vitamin D, which can be synthesized by the body from the sun. Vitamins help regulate our metabolism, fight infection, repair and grow body tissues, give us energy and make us fertile. They even make us look good by making our hair shiny and thick, our nails strong, our teeth healthy and our skin youthful. One way to make sure our bodies are getting the nutrients they need is to complement our diet with high-quality vitamin and mineral supplements.

VITAMINS 101

As I mentioned in an ideal world, it would be best to get all the nutrients we need from high-quality, wholesome foods, but how realistic is that? With our busy lifestyles, we often don’t take the time to plan and prepare well-balanced, nutritional meals. If I were to ask you how much manganese you took in yesterday, you would be at a loss to answer. Some may not know that manganese is a trace mineral, let alone what foods contain it and how much they’ve had!

Unfortunately, even if you think you eat fairly well, it’s hard to know if you’re covering all of your nutritional needs on a daily basis. Taking a broad-spectrum nutritional supplement can ensure that you are getting all the right nutrients. Each vitamin and mineral plays an important role in maintaining your body’s normal functions, repairing cellular and tissue damage, and promoting optimal wellness.

The message surrounding vitamins, specifically multivitamins, has changed dramatically over the years. Twenty years ago, experts told us not to take multivitamins if we ate a healthy diet, as they were considered a waste of money. However, in a 2015 report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that only one in every ten Americans eat enough fruit and vegetables, making the rest deficient in many essential vitamins and minerals.(1)

FAT-SOLUBLE AND WATER-SOLUBLE VITAMINS

Without getting into all the details of the vitamins’ individual roles—as it will be discussed in the next chapter—know that there are 13 essential vitamins:

  • thiamine (B1)
  • riboflavin (B2—which gives your urine the fluorescent yellow color)
  • niacin/niacinamide (B3)
  • pantothenic acid (B5)
  • pyridoxal/pyridoxamine/pyridoxine (B6—often deficient in people who consume excessive alcohol)
  • biotin (B7)
  • cobalamin (B12)
  • folic acid
  • ascorbic acid (vitamin C)
  • retinol/retinal/retinoic acid (vitamin A)
  • calcitriol (active vitamin D form)
  • tocopherols/tocotrienols (vitamin E family)
  • menaquinone (vitamin K active form)

Vitamins are categorized as either water soluble or fat soluble. Fat-soluble vitamins (i.e., A, D, E and K), are stored in the fat tissues in your body and your liver until your body needs them. They can be stored for a few days—or sometimes even months. Water-soluble vitamins, like C and B, are easily excreted and are, therefore, hard to consume in toxic amounts. This also means they must be replenished daily.

MINERALS

Minerals also perform essential functions. They are divided in two groups: major minerals and trace minerals. Major minerals are sodium, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, chloride and sulfur. These minerals are generally required in amounts greater than 100 mg per day. Trace minerals are iron, zinc, manganese, fluoride, iodine, selenium, copper, molybdenum and chromium. These minerals are needed in only microgram (mcg) amounts.

NOT ALL VITAMINS ARE CREATED EQUAL

When buying supplements, it is important to do your research. Good supplements should be whole- food based—without chemicals, dyes, binders, or fillers. Thankfully, there are companies specializing in nutrition and health research that focus  primarily on vitamin and mineral supplementation. One such company is NutriSearch Corporation, and one of their main products is the NutriSearch Comparative Guide to Nutritional Supplements, which examines current research on the health benefits of supplementation for the prevention of degenerative disease. The guide also includes comparisons of a wide variety of supplements offered in various markets around the world—including Canada and the U.S.

As stated in the NutriSearch Comparative Guide to Nutritional Supplements:

“Each supplement is given a Health Support Profile based on 18 criteria— completeness, potency, mineral forms, vitamin E forms, immune support, antioxidant support, bone health, heart health, liver health, metabolic health, ocular health, methylation support, lipotropic factors, inflammation control, glycation control, bioflavonoid prole, phenolic compound profile, and potential toxicities. Each product is then given a score based on a star system (zero stars to five stars).”(2)

A good-quality multivitamin may not be as simple as a “one-a-day” supplement, as quality supplements are not stuffed with fillers and binders—which help to “bind” the contents together to make it fit in one pill. This is why, with quality supplements, you will often have to take more than one tablet or capsule per day as they often have less fillers present. But remember, convenience shouldn’t win over quality. Since nutrients do not work in isolation, a good supplement regime will ensure proper ratios to help you absorb the most nutrients.

Safety and performance should always be the bottom line, so get the proper information on the vitamins you are taking to ensure you’re getting the highest of quality!

It’s important to know the following:

  • The two certifying bodies are the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF). These organizations ensure that products are made using the highest standards available.(3)
  • Look for vitamins certified GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) to ensure that what is said on the label is actually in the bottle—nothing more, nothing less.(4) 

Taking a poor-quality supplement can be worse than taking no supplement at all. Not only do you get a false sense of security about getting adequate nutrition, but—depending on the supplement’s fillers— you can also be ingesting toxic substances.

To sum up, vitamins and minerals play an important role in maintaining your body’s normal functions, repairing cellular and tissue damage, and maintaining your optimal wellness. Are you getting enough from your diet? Why not make sure by supplementing with high-quality vitamins? It is that important!

 

References:

  1. Adults Meeting Fruit and Vegetable Intake Recommendations—United States, 2013. (2015, July 10). Retrieved October 23, 2017, from https://www.cdc. gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6426a1.htm
  2. Product Rating Criteria. (n.d.). Retrieved October 23, 2017, from https://www.nutrisearch.ca/criteria.html
  3. What Is NSF Certification? (n.d.). Retrieved October 23, 2017, from http://www.nsf.org/consumer-resources/what-is-nsf-certification
  4. International, I. A. (n.d.). NPA GMP Certification Program Overview. Retrieved October 23, 2017, from http://www.npainfo.org/NPA/ EducationandCertification/GMPCertification/ProgramOverview/NPA/EducationCertification/NPAGMPCertificationProgramOverview. aspx?hkey=8ebad406-b72e-4a98-92b0-31e30176ab2e

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