Multivitamins: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

One of my favorite books growing up was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. If you have read the book or seen the movie, you may recall that one of the golden ticket winners was a little girl named Violet Beauregard. In addition to being selfish and arrogant, Violet is also obsessed with chewing gum. She snatches a piece of Willy Wonka’s chewing gum in the Inventing Room because it advertises that each small piece of gum contains an entire three course meal. At first she is delighted by the tomato soup, roast beef, baked potato, and blueberry pie. However, something goes horribly wrong once she is at the dessert course and she swells up until she has turned into a large blueberry. Not only that, but she has to be rolled down to the juicing room so she doesn’t explode!

This is how I usually feel about multivitamins. The promise of a whole day’s worth of nutrition in one small pill often ends up being an empty promise. Or even worse, it has a negative effect (although usually not exploding thank goodness).

I love the idea of the multivitamin. Our food today is not nearly as nutritious as it was 50 years ago. Over-farming has depleted our soil so that the same vegetable your grandmother ate now has 30 to 50% less calcium, magnesium, copper, zinc, phosphorus, vitamin C, riboflavin, etc. Americans eat way more processed grains, industrial seed oils, and refined sugar than we used to. 1/3 of Americans have at least one significant vitamin deficiency or anemia. But truthfully, there is at least one thing I really dislike about almost every multivitamin I pick up. Most of them are derived from coal tar and contain synthetic versions of nutrients that are cheap to make in a lab but may not even exist in nature (Centrum, NatureMade). Others, like Ritual Multivitamin, contain therapeutic forms/amounts of some vitamins and are completely missing most of the B vitamins and trace minerals.

That being said, a high-quality multivitamin made by companies with strict quality assurance protocols and based on well-designed research studies can be a great investment in your health. A good multivitamin should have a therapeutic amount of vitamin D (1000 to 2000 IU of D3), activated bioavailable B vitamins, antioxidants, vitamin K2 (not K1) and trace minerals like zinc and manganese. A quick way to tell the quality of a multivitamin is to look at the form of B12 included. The B12 molecule, cobalamin, is always attached to another molecule. Methylcobalamin is B12 attached to a methyl group. This is the most active form of B12. Hydroxocobalamin and Adenosylcobalamin are other forms of B12 found in nature. Cyanocobalamin is the synthetic form of B12 that is bound to a molecule of cyanide. Genetically, a third of the population may be unable to fully absorb this synthetic version. A more natural form of B12 is most likely a better option for you.

So here is my list of multivitamins that I actually like a lot. Ideally, your functional medicine provider would test you for nutritional deficiencies and help determine exactly which multivitamin would be best for you. But these are multivitamins that I trust the quality of, and routinely recommend to patients.

Want to talk about testing for a specific nutritional markers? Feel free to make an appointment here to discuss:

Best Dr. G

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