A multinutrient supplement should be designed for one thing: to provide you with the ability to balance a typical, average diet with proper amounts and ratios of the vitamins, minerals, amino acids and antioxidant nutrients to make that diet more nutritionally complete. And unless you eat the recommended daily five servings of fruits and vegetables, seeds and nuts, whole grains, lean meats, etc., chances are your diet is lacking in many vital nutrients.
What does a superior multinutrient supplement include?
It includes the major vitamins and minerals, amino acids, carotenoids, tocopherols and a number of antioxidants in amounts designed to complement and balance our average diets into great diets.
Antioxidants attack and neutralize free radicals, which are renegade chemical fragments caused by the normal process of metabolism in your body, plus pollution, ultraviolet radiation, rancid oil and other toxins. Scientists believe free radicals are one of the causes of aging, and are a primary culprit in degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, arthritis and cancer. Because of our nutrient-deficient diets, we've become more vulnerable to degenerative diseases—another reason to take nutritional supplements!
It also helps to know what synergistic combinations of nutrients work best to support different organs and systems in the body. For instance, lycopene, a red carotenoid and a powerful antioxidant found in tomatoes, has been linked to reduced risk of prostate cancer. CoQ10, a vitamin-like nutrient present in every cell of the body, provides the vital spark needed to produce energy. Without adequate CoQ10, however, your heart can't produce the energy it needs to function properly. As we get older, our body's ability to make CoQ10 diminishes. By learning more about your individual needs and the specific nutrients that are right for you, you'll be able to help avoid the illnesses and diseases that result from lack of proper nutrition.
Mixed tocopherols, mixed tocotrienols and mixed carotenoids. What are they?
Mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols
Although most people think vitamin E is just a simple vitamin, it's actually much more. In fact, vitamin E isn't even one compound, but rather a series of related compounds that have vitamin E activity. There are four main forms of vitamin E, or tocopherols (another name for vitamin E): alpha, beta, gamma and delta.
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Problem is, most dietary supplements contain only large amounts of alpha tocopherol because of the high IU amount that can be placed on the label. Yet, a healthy diet contains a mixture of vitamin E compounds … and an excellent supplement should simulate a typical diet.
A healthy diet contains more gamma tocopherol than alpha tocopherol. Gamma tocopherol is now known to play a vital role along with alpha tocopherol in the body. Unfortunately, taking large amounts of alpha tocopherol without gamma tocopherol, though, can actually push needed gamma tocopherol out of the body and create an imbalance … but most multis contain only alpha tocopherol.
Additionally, research has shown that an intake of mixed tocopherols is more effective at preventing cardiovascular disease, when compared to taking large amounts of pure alpha-tocopherol, which was shown to have little or no effect at all in clinical studies.1
Lastly, another group of related vitamin E-like compounds found in normal diets are the tocotrienols. Again, like gamma tocopherol, the tocotrienols have been the subject of exciting research and are potent antioxidants that complement alpha tocopherol. Combinations of tocopherols are MUCH more effective at preventing oxidation damage than just alpha tocopherol, and many scientists now believe that taking only alpha tocopherol may be counterproductive.
Only a supplement that contains the entire spectrum of vitamin E compounds can be expected to provide the maximum protection that a balanced intake of vitamin E compounds supplies … and that includes d-alpha tocopherol, high gamma tocopherol, mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols.
Carotenoids are the red, orange and yellow plant pigments that give fruits and vegetables their vivid colors. All fruits and vegetables contain varying concentrations of carotenoids, but their colors are often covered up by green chlorophyll contained in the plant.
Unless we eat a wide variety of carotenoid-containing foods (tomatoes, kale, collard greens, Swiss chard, broccoli, etc.) we are probably not getting adequate amounts of the full range of carotenoid compounds. And even if you eat like a rabbit, because of natural factors like growing conditions, the carotenoid content of one piece of fruit or vegetable and another can vary by as much as three-fold!
Fact is, most carotenoids are much better absorbed from supplements than from food. But most supplements do not contain a full-spectrum of carotenoids. Most only contain beta carotene. Make sure your multi contains all the major carotenoids in our diet, including alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin.
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This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Always consult with a physician before embarking on a dietary supplement program.
Liu M, Wallin R, Wallmon A, Saldeen T. Mixed tocopherols have a stronger inhibitory effect on lipid peroxidation than alpha-tocopherol alone. J Cardiovasc Pharmacol 2002 May;39(5):714-21
Giovannucci E, et al. 1998. Multivitamin use, folate and colon cancer in women in the nurses' health study. Ann Intern Med 129:517-24.
Rimm EB, et al. 1998. Folate and Vitamin B6 from diet and supplements in relation to risk of coronary heart disease among women. JAMA 279:359-64.
Mansoor MA, et al. 1999. Plasma total homocysteine response to oral doses of folic acid and pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6) in healthy individuals. Oral doses of vitamin B6 reduce concentrations of serum folate. Scand J ClinLab Invest 59:139-46.
Chasan-Taber L, et al. A prospective study of carotenoid and vitamin A intakes and risk of cataract extraction in US women. Am J Clin Nutr 70:509-16, 1999.
Hammond BR, et al. Preservation of visual sensitivity of older subjects; association with macular pigment density. Inv Ophthalmol 1996;93:54-8
Kearney J, et al. Calcium, vitamin D, and dairy foods and the occurrence of colon cancer in men. Am J Epidemiol 143:907-17, 1996
Holick MF, et al. The vitamin D content of fortified milk and infant formula, New Eng J Med 1992;326:1178-81.
Hicks T, et al. Procedures used by North Carolina dairies for vitamin A and D fortification of milk. J Dairy Sci 1996;79:329-33.
Blot WJ, Vitamin/mineral supplementation and cancer risk: international chemoprevention trials. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med 216:291-6, 1997.