Due to the very wide range of bio-individuality, a level of ingestion of a supplement that would be normal and effective for one person might be too low for the next one. Should you take a vitamin and mineral supplement that’s “for competitive athletes,” or the one that says “stress formula”? Should you buy a synthetic complex, or one that is “all natural”? Or should it be a “whole foods” formulation? Which vitamins and minerals (micronutrients) do you really need, and how much of each?
One tip to begin with as you take your first step out upon your quest of a thousand labels is to look for a USP symbol, says runner and family physician Heather Holmstrom, M.D. This means the MVM (multivitamin-and-mineral supplement) meets U.S. Pharmacopeia standards for quality, purity, and potency. What that means to you is, that symbol ensures that what’s listed on the label is actually in those capsules.
A second tip is to look for a balanced supplement. So-called “natural” MVMs often consist of synthetic micronutrients mixed with natural ingredients. Many of these formulae contain more than 1000% the FDA’s recommended daily intake concentrations of inexpensive and non-essential vitamins while at once providing far lower doses of essential (hence, more expensive) micronutrients, making the formula unbalanced and more difficult for your body to absorb and use, says Andrea Crivelli-Kovach, Ph.D., assistant professor and director of community health programs at Arcadia University in Glenside, Pa. She recommends a balanced formula wherein the percentages of the Daily Value for each nutrient are more or less equal.
There is a host of micronutrients that should be included in a complete MVM. Inclusive are: the vitamin B-complex (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and/or niacinamide, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin B12, pantothenic acid, and biotin); vitamins A, C, D, E, and K; and the minerals calcium, magnesium, zinc, iodine, selenium, copper, manganese, chromium, molybdenum, and possibly iron. (Iron is the component of multivitamins that most often causes stomach trouble and is unnecessary in supplemental amounts for many people.)
Phosphorus is another essential mineral, but it is so abundant in the human diet that deficiencies are virtually unknown. Indeed, Dr. Crivelli-Kovach’s opinion is that an MVM complex should not contain more than 35% of the FDA’s recommended daily intake of this mineral, as higher levels of concentration could potentially compromise your health.
The recommended intake for vitamin C is way too low. Humans are one of the few mammals that don’t produce their own vitamin C. Even if your supplement contains 100% of the FDA’s recommended daily intake of vitamin C, an additional pure vitamin C supplement should be checked out as well. Potassium as a supplement is not permitted, by law, to be sold in the amounts that the human body really requires, except by prescription. If potassium shows up in your MVM formula, then it is doing little if anything for you. As with vitamin C, seek out an additional potassium supplement (or eat a six pack of bananas every day). Yet a third micronutrient that some people might wish to consider taking as an additional supplement on its own is magnesium. Magnesium is the mineral that regulates the sodium potassium engine. Biologically, the sodium potassium engine moves electrolytes so that your body can send nerve transmissions. If you have a magnesium deficiency, then your nervous system gets “crazy” and you can develop things like heart arrhythmia or eye twitching. Magnesium has a calming effect on the nervous system. The average American diet tends to be low in magnesium; thus, it is possible that supplemental magnesium could help some types of anxiety or help to balance out your nervous system.
Says Dr. Holmstrom, “Stay away from those that contain caffeine and ephedrine, as they can cause increased heart rate, high blood pressure, anxiety, and heart palpitations. Sometimes these substances are listed on the label; other times they are disguised as guarana, ma haung, or green tea extract.”
There is heated disagreement amongst users, physicians, and scientests concerning whether or not all of the nutrients in an MVM would be better utilized if they were taken separately. While certain nutrients compete with each other for absorption, this is also the case when the nutrients are supplied in food.
For example, magnesium, zinc, and calcium compete; copper and zinc also compete. However, evidence seems to indicate that the human body is designed for biochemical synergy. One of the most effective ways to minimize competitive cancel-out is to ignore those one-a-day supplements and spend your money on those that are taken twice or three times per day. Another effective measure is to ingest your supplement immediately before or after a meal.
Perhaps the very best MVM supplement that I have taken would be the “whole foods” based product called Juice Plus+Ã?Â® .
According to NSA, the makers of Juice Plus+Ã?Â®, “Juice Plus+Ã?Â® is much more than a traditional vitamin and mineral supplement. Juice Plus+Ã?Â® provides whole food based nutrition, the nutritional essence of 17 different fruits, vegetables, and grains in convenient capsule form.”
In a Juice Plus+Ã?Â® Bio-Availability Study published in June 1996 in the journal Current Therapeutic Research, the researchers concluded,”Test subjects showed significant increases in blood plasma levels of key antioxidants after only 28 days on Juice Plus+Ã?Â®.”
In a follow up study, researchers at the University of Arizona decided to measure the impact of Juice Plus+Ã?Â® on the immune system. In 1999 in the journal Integrative Medicine, the researchers said, “Epidemiological evidence suggests fruits and vegetables reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer. Immune function declines with age as CVD and cancer incidences rise and may be related to poor antioxidant status. The present study investigated how fruit and vegetable extracts (Juice Plus+Ã?Â®) containing multiple antioxidants and phytonutrients affect immune function in the elderly….Fruit and vegetable extract supplementation significantly enhanced multiple immune functions in elderly subjects, and offers a novel way to improve compliance with current nutritional recommendations and ultimately lower disease risk.”
In the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics in late 2000, researchers at King’s College in London wrote, “In as little as seven days, [supplementation with Juice Plus+Ã?Â®] can raise blood antioxidant levels into the ranges associated with reduced risk of disease.”
Says Dr. Richard DuBois, M.D., one of the world’s leading authorities on infectious diseases: “Research has proven that getting the proper level of antioxidants into our bloodstream will reduce the risk of cancer. Research has proven that Juice Plus+Ã?Â® increases the level of key antioxidants in the bloodstream. Research even shows that Juice Plus+Ã?Â® decreases oxidative stress in the form of lipid peroxides in the bloodstream. My advice to patients is simple: Don’t take vitamin supplements. Eat whole food and take Juice Plus+Ã?Â® and feel good knowing that you’ve got nutrition from 17 different fruits and vegetables and grains going through your body every day.”
If any questions arise about your state of health, energy level, or fitness, then consult your physician. Otherwise, when it comes to buying MVMs, look them over carefully and you be the judge and the jury.