Does Your Multivitamin Suck?
By Tyler Woodward
In 2021, the multivitamin supplement industry is assessed to be worth 34.9 billion dollars in the US alone. 70% of adults age 65 and older take a multivitamin or other vitamin/mineral based supplement. The question remains are multivitamins actually doing anything?
- Are Multivitamins Actually Doing Anything Besides Emptying Your Pocket?
- Is It Better To Be Safe Than Sorry?
- A Solution That Works - How To Actually Remain Nourished And Improve Your Health In The Process
Statistically, about 90% of Americans are deficient in at least one essential micronutrient (vitamin, mineral, electrolyte, or amino acid) and according to the NHANES, only 12% of Americans are considered to be metabolically healthy.
So consuming a multivitamin can’t hurt right? Believe it or not, this is actually a recurring argument as to why you should be taking a multivitamin which I find to be pretty comical. A 35 billion dollar industry justifies the purchase of their products under the assumption that, “it can’t hurt right?”. Generally, I agree that taking a multivitamin in the majority of cases does not hurt, but the question remains are they actually doing anything?
In order to understand the value of multivitamins, let’s briefly discuss the value of micronutrients.
Read More: What Does It Mean To Be Healthy
The Four Essential micronutrients:
- Amino Acid
They are considered essential because our body cannot produce them, so if we do not consume them in our diet over time, we run out of “fuel” so to speak. To remain in “micronutrient balance” we need to consume micronutrients at about the same rate at which our body consumes them. The fda provides a general recommendation of the amount of vitamins and minerals we should be consuming daily, known as RDI.
These quantities will be listed on the back of your multivitamin and will also include the %DV or the percentage of the FDA’s recommended daily value included in the vitamin. This brings us to the two fundamental issues of many multivitamins:
The Multivitamin Dilemma
- Overdosed - A lot of micronutrients actually contain larger amounts of certain vitamins and minerals than recommended. This isn’t inherently a bad thing, but when you consider all of the other nutrients that you are getting from your diet, it can quickly add up. Fat-soluble vitamins (A, E, & K) get stored in your fat tissue and in excess can actually cause vitamin toxicity. Minerals (Fe, Cu, Cr, Zn, Mn, I, Se, Mo) can also build up in excess, causing downstream health effects. You generally do not have to worry about getting an excess of water-soluble vitamins or electrolytes because your body can easily flush them out either through urine or sweat. For these same reasons, it's much easier to become deficient in water-soluble vitamins and minerals.
- Underdosed - Many multivitamins are extremely underdosed in many of these essential micronutrients, so they aren’t actually doing much in terms of correcting micronutrient deficiencies. Additionally, even if there is enough of the micronutrient in the multivitamin, it may not be in a very bioavailable form.
Bioavailability is the amount of a substance that is absorbed into our bloodstream and available to be used by our body and cells. Bioavailability literally means the “availability to life”. There are many different forms of vitamins and minerals and each form has its own relative bioavailability. For example, let’s consider Zinc, here are some of the common supplemental forms of zinc:
- Zinc Citrate
- Zinc Gluconate
- Zinc Glycinate
- Zinc Picolinate
- Zinc Acetate
- Zinc Oxide
- Zinc Sulfate
- Zinc Sulfide
Depending on a number of factors, including the size and the electrical charge, each form of magnesium will exhibit a different bioavailability. Generally, the smaller and positively charged minerals will be the most absorbable in the body and therefore the most effective or biologically active. For these reasons, Zinc Oxide, Sulfate, and Sulfide are the least bioavailable forms of zinc. But to put it in perspective, let’s do some math....
Per the FDA, the recommended daily intake of zinc is 11mg daily. Let’s say zinc glycinate has a bioavailability of 75% and zinc oxide has a bioavailability of 50%. To see how much of the zinc we will absorb from a given supplement, we can divide the RDI of zinc by the bioavailability of each form:
- 11 mg / 75% (.75) = 14.67 grams of zinc
- 11mg /50% (.5) = 22 grams of zinc
So you would have to consume 7+ more grams of zinc from zinc oxide compared to zinc glycinate to have the same effect and fill your nutritional needs.
This is a huge pitfall in many multivitamins as they often do not use very bioavailable forms of the vitamins or minerals due to the more bioavailable forms often being more expensive. And as you now know, even if you’re consuming 11mg grams of zinc as zinc oxide, you’re really only getting 5.5 grams of usable or active zinc.
Pro-Tip: When choosing a supplement, avoid the supplement forms that end in either “ides” or “ites”, because these are negatively charged forms of the supplement and generally poorly absorbed in the body.
Harmful Fillers & Additives:
Many multivitamins and supplements use harmful “fillers” and excipients in order to:
- Fillers- Remove any leftover space in a capsule
- Binding Agents - Stabilize a capsule or tablet, so they hold together
- Lubricants & Flow Enhancers - Keeps the vitamins from clumping and sticking together during the manufacturing process, allowing manufacturers to lower their cost
- Coatings & Glazes - Make the capsules or tablets easier to swallow
- Preservatives - Extend the shelf life of the supplement/multivitamin
- Colorings - Improve the appearance/ color of the supplement/multivitamin
Here are a couple ingredients to look out for specifically:
- Cellulose Capsules - Generally decrease the bioavailability of the supplement or multivitamin
- Red 40, Blue 2, Yellow 5 - Food colorings that act as potent estrogenics in the body and are currently all outlawed in the European Union
- Artificial Flavorings
- Hydrogenated Oils or other Vegetable Oils- Highly unstable oils that get converted into free radicals in the body
- Titanium Dioxide - Associated with causing cancer and increasing the amount of free radicals in the body
The UMZU Difference:
This is how we formulate our supplements at UMZU so that you know you are getting the best products on the market:
- No Harmful Additives - At UMZU, we intentionally formulate our supplements without any harmful fillers or additives. In our supplements, you will not find any unsaturated oils, artificial flavorings, or colors or harmful additives.
- Highly Bioavailable Vitamin & Mineral Sources - We intentionally formulate all of our supplements with vitamins and mineral sources that are very well absorbed to make them as effective as possible
- This is why we formulate nearly all of our supplements with a bovine (cow) gelatin capsule. Gelatin is more easily digested and absorbed by the body than plant-based capsules like cellulose.
- Bang For Your Buck - When formulating our supplements, we use the micronutrients that most people are deficient in to make the supplements effective for as many people as possible. Additionally, we choose the micronutrients that are most interrelated to the ailing condition, so our supplement solutions have the highest probability of work.
If you're interested to learn how to eat so you don't have to worry about taking a multivitamin, make sure to check out our Thermo Diet Program on UMZUfit! The Thermodiet program teaches you how to eat for optimal health, hormonal balance and to maximize your metabolic rate.
My goal in writing this article, as always, is to provide you with logically-based principles that you can use to form your own conclusions regarding any information you may come across within this subject. I really hope you found this article interesting and if you have anything to add to this article, or any comments or criticism, feel free to reach out to me on our facebook groups (The Thermo Diet Community Group, The UMZU Community Group) or on Instagram @tylerwoodward_fit. Also, please feel free to share this article with anyone that might be interested.
Thanks for reading!
Until next time… be good
B.S. Physiology and Neurobiology
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“Is There Really Any Benefit to Multivitamins?” Johns Hopkins Medicine, www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/is-there-really-any-benefit-to-multivitamins.
“Should i Take a Daily Multivitamin?” The Nutrition Source, 23 July 2020, www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/multivitamin/.
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