Friday, July 17, 2009

What You May Not Know About Multivitamins

While multivitamins are a popular catch-all for nutritional deficiencies, the pills have proven to have little effect on health. 40 % of Americans take vitamin or mineral supplements, likely because only 3% of Americans follow the U.S. dietary guidelines.Americans spend $23 billion per year on these supplements and there are some who believe that $1 out of every $3 spent is completely wasted. Why would anyone think this when we’ve been told to take our vitamins our whole lives?

The two major concerns about multivitamins especially, because they are the most popular supplement, is how their actual contents differ from their labels and their poor level of absorption into the bloodstream. Most name brand multivitamins have about a 10-20% absorption rate, which is quite poor. In fact, nurses often find them in patients’ bedpans fully in tact after passing through the entire digestive tract.

In one test, 7 Canadian and American biochemists compared the contents of 110 different multivitamins by separating and measuring each ingredient: vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and other components. They examined how absorbable the vitamins were, whether they were in the right amounts/form and the variety of vitamins and minerals in the right combinations for what the body needs. They gave each a score out of 100% and 50 of the multivitamins (including most major supermarket brands) did not reach 10%, while only the top 11 were above 25% of that the human body needs on a daily basis.

Vitamins and other supplements are not regulated by the FDA and are not required to prove that their supplements are safe or effective, as long as they do not claim that the supplements can “prevent, treat, or cure any specific disease.” Pretty scary stuff.

Some products may not contain the amount of the substance that is written on the label, and some include other substances, contaminants or toxic agents. Actual amounts per dose vary between brands or even between different batches of the same brand. Another test found that more than 30 percent contained significantly more or less of an ingredient than claimed, or were contaminated with lead. Additionally, they found that several multivitamin products tested, including three for children, exceeded tolerable upper limits established by the Institute of Medicine for ingredients such as vitamin A, folic acid, and niacin. Some men’s multivitamin products contained too much folic acid, which may increase the risk of prostate cancer. Among four women’s multivitamins tested, one provided only 66 percent of its claimed vitamin A and one of five seniors’ multivitamins tested contained only 44 percent of its vitamin A.

Current research has shown no evidence that vitamin pills help to prevent or cure cancer, heart disease or any other non-deficiency related disease. In a government-funded study of 161,808 women, conducted by the Women’s Health Initiative, data was collected from forty centers around the country on multivitamin use. The research has proven that people whose diets are nutrient-rich and filled with fruits and vegetables have lower rates of cancer and heart disease, but taking a daily supplement doesn’t appear to offer the same health benefits.

So it’s really best to save the money and skip the supplements. Just make sure that you are getting the proper nutrition in your daily diet. One excellent way to do that easily and inexpensively is to incorporate a nutrient rich super food into your diet everyday.

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