Multi-Vitamins/Multi-Minerals To Take or Not to Take… And if You do Take, Then Which One?

vitamins and pills

The question of whether or not multi-vitamins/multi-minerals can help us has remained hotly debated over the past few decades. Those in favor will point to studies showing benefits, while those opposed will of course cite studies that have failed to demonstrate advantages. So what should we, physicians, and you, the lay public do? How do we all sort out the copious and oftentimes conflicting data?

First, let’s briefly examine the way clinical trials are performed. Some simply look at populations retrospectively (back in time), and through questionnaires asking “Do you take a multivitamin?” compare the outcomes of those who do and those who do not answer yes to this simple query. No knowledge of the supplement’s contents is gleaned; no comparison is made among the plethora of diametrically constructed supplements. We simply learn whether or not people are taking “multiples”, as if they were all the same. Other studies pre-select supplements, such as those that have looked at high dose beta carotene, vitamin C and vitamin E. Typically these trials have actually utilized synthetic vitamin E (dl-alpha tocopherols), known to be inferior to its natural counterpart. Usually these latter trials have failed to demonstrate benefit, and their results have been extrapolated to mean that “all supplements fail to provide benefit”, an erroneous and misleading conclusion indeed. In the ‘90s the Cochrane Group demonstrated the benefits of daily multivitamin use, and their findings were published in JAMA. Recently the famed Physicians Health Study published two JAMA articles, one demonstrating risk reduction in cancer while the other failing to show risk reduction in cardiovascular disease. About 12 years ago I conducted a trial looking at blood test responses to a high dose multivitamin supplement. I found that some people improved; others worsened. It appeared that those patients with good levels of antioxidants at baseline certainly didn’t need high doses of additional antioxidants. That trial actually set me on the path to create my own nutritional supplement company, one with very conservative and scientific roots. To ensure the quality and scientific foundations of each supplement, I personally formulate each one. The company, VitalRemedyMD has two multiples, both low-dose. The principle is that a DailyMultiple should simply level the playing field. It should ensure that on a daily basis we are all getting the minimal daily requirements of all the essential vitamins and minerals. Although this is a simplistic concept, to my surprise, there is no other daily like it. Typically daily multiples either try to include an array of ingredients (often at high doses) to attract consumers to potential panaceas or they sacrifice essential minerals to remain one pill a day. (Sadly, much of what is done in the supplement world is for marketing, not scientific reasons.) At this point I am quite convinced that panaceas do not exist. Furthermore, we must use extreme caution when we ingest anything, especially supplements touted to convey impossibly positive benefits.

The bottom line:
1. Be careful when you read studies; there are invariably multiple sides to any trial’s “story”.
2. A daily multiple is probably a very good thing for people to take, as long as it does not exceed the RDVs nor contain extraneous and marketing-driven components. By taking a proper multiple you will assure yourself that every day you are ingesting at least the minimal amounts of vitamins and minerals your body needs to carry on its daily functions in a healthy fashion.

related: more info on multi-vitamins and multi-supplements

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