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. The most widely studied and well-understood nutritional role for carotenoids is their provitamin-A activity. Vitamin A can be produced within the body from certain carotenoids, notably beta-carotene. And dietary beta-carotene is obtained from a number of fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, spinach, peaches, apricots and sweet potatoes. The important thing is to get a balance of carotenoids. It’s entirely possible to load up on beta-carotene and ignore other carotenoids, such as alpha carotene, lycopene and lutein.
Also, our own particular tastes can alter our intake of carotenoids in a detrimental way. Lycopene is found primarily in tomato products, and alpha carotene largely in carrots. If you don’t eat these foods regularly, it’s a sure bet that you’re not getting enough of these vital carotenoids. So, when it comes to carotenoids, a mix of natural beta-carotene and other carotenoids is definitely the best way to go!
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.
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.
Too much of a good thing
Riboflavin, or vitamin B-2, is an essential vitamin, but most multivitamin supplements contain levels that are toxic! We are all familiar with riboflavin’s bright orange/yellow color, because it’s the vitamin that turns our urine yellow after taking vitamin supplements. (Other B vitamins are white and do not turn urine yellow.) Most vitamins protect from the damaging effects of the sun, but riboflavin is a notable exception. It has an undesirable property of reacting with light, causing the formation of peroxides, phototoxic compounds and DNA damage.
This problem was first noticed in cell culture studies using excess riboflavin, and has now been demonstrated to be a cause of liver dysfunction in people fed with intravenous vitamins containing riboflavin. The riboflavin actually reacts with the light in the room forming a variety of toxic compounds. Many of these phototoxic compounds are extremely damaging.
While all of us want to consume adequate amounts of essential dietary riboflavin because of its proven health benefits and preventive effects on things like cataracts, excess riboflavin in the form of poorly designed vitamin supplements may actually cause the damage we are trying to prevent. The human requirement for riboflavin is less than 2 milligrams a day, but many common vitamin supplements contain 10s or 100s of milligrams. In fact, high levels of riboflavin from multivitamins that contain far more than our dietary requirement may promote the aging of not only our eyes, but also our skin and organs. The combination of sunlight and abnormally high tissue levels of riboflavin from excess supplementation is a toxic combination that should be avoided, and this can only be done by using a multivitamin supplement that contains 5 milligrams or less of riboflavin.
Is there proof that vitamins and minerals make a difference?
Absolutely! There are literally thousands of studies proving that supplements make a huge difference in overall health. Cancer, heart disease, stroke, bone loss, macular degeneration and diabetes—most any degenerative disease and condition you can think of can either be prevented or improved by the right combination of nutritional supplements. And over the long term, the benefits can really add up.
Here are some study highlights:
- According to a 1994 study at the New Jersey Medical School in Newark, multivitamin and mineral supplements appear to boost immunity. A group of non-institutionalized 59 to 85-year-olds were given either a multivitamin/mineral supplement or a placebo. After one year, the group taking the vitamins scored better on tests measuring their immune systems’ reactions to infectious agents like strep, tuberculin, diptheria and tetanus. They also avoided the declines in blood levels of vitamins A and B6, folic acid and beta-carotene that occurred in some placebo-takers during the year.
- Women who take multivitamins for at least 15 years may cut their risk of colon cancer by 75%. In the long-running Nurses Health Study (Annals of Internal Medicine, Feb. 1999), Edward Giovannucci, a researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and his colleagues collected data on 88,756 women, including 442 who developed colon cancer during 14 years of follow-up. Women who got at least 400 micrograms of folic acid a day, from supplements or foods such as green vegetables and fortified cereals, had 31% fewer colon cancers than those who got less than 200 micrograms. Folate from food didn’t work as well as from supplements. No one knows why, although bioavailability problems may be to blame. Although only women were studied, other research suggests folic acid has similar effects in men, Giovannucci said.2
In the same study, the researchers found that women who took multivitamins with vitamin B6 reduced their risk of heart disease by 30%.3
- A study from Norway shows that a combination of vitamin B6 and folate reduces homocysteine 32% within five weeks in healthy individuals. This has the potential to significantly lower the risk of heart attack and stroke.4
- The carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin have been found to reduce the incidence of cataracts by 22%. 5 The problem is, most people don’t get nearly enough of these carotenoids, which are found in green leafy vegetables, peas, egg yolks, tomatoes, carrots and fruits. One study has shown that 60-year-olds with normal levels of zeaxanthin and lutein in their retinas exhibit the visual sensitivity of 20-year-olds! 6
- Supplemental vitamin D reduces the risk of colon cancer by 50% compared to dietary vitamin D which reduces it by 12%.7 Why supplemental rather than dietary vitamin D? Because, first of all vitamin D is not prevalent in foods. And a study conducted at the Bone Research Laboratory at Boston University School of Medicine revealed that even fortified milk may not be a reliable source of vitamin D. Only 29% of commercial milk samples tested were within 80 to 120% of the amount stated on the label. Most milk products were overfortified, and a few milk cartons contained no vitamin D at all.8 Vitamin D milk fortification procedures vary widely from dairy to dairy. Some dairies place their vitamin D preparations in refrigerated storage, and others do not, which may affect the vitamin D content of the final product.9
Fat-soluble vitamin D supplements are available in two forms. Vitamin D3 is believed to exhibit the most potent cancer-inhibiting properties and is the preferred form of the vitamin.
- Supplementation with vitamin E, selenium and beta-carotene has been shown to lower cancer risk.10
- A Swedish-American study just released Oct 15, 2002 suggests that a diet supplemented with folic acid lowers the risk of early miscarriage.11 This is in addition to the 1998 finding that folic acid supplementation reduces the risk of birth defects.
It’s estimated that about 90% of the population gets less folate per day than necessary for health (400 micrograms).
Do I really need a multinutrient supplement?
We appreciate the sincere recommendations based on extensive studies about the relationship of a healthy diet to our longevity and health. But we also know it is impossible to get ALL the important and varied nutrients contained in a “perfect diet” in today’s world. Therefore, everyone could benefit by getting all the important nutritional protectors in an easy-to-take product.
Another consideration is the difficulty in eating a proper diet on a regular basis. For instance, if you rarely eat carrots, your diet will be lacking in a very important carotenoid not found in large amounts in many other vegetables, and the same is true for tomatoes.
Even if you’re in the best of health, you still need a multi to protect yourself against environmental toxins and a nutrient-starved food supply. And now even the Journal of American Medical Association is recommending that EVERYONE take a daily multinutrient.
So do yourself a big favor. Do just one thing to
- decrease your risk of heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis
- enhance your immune system
- increase your energy levels
- elevate your mood
- improve your chances of living a healthier, more productive life.
Take a multinutrient supplement based on the newest science and technology. You’ll rest assured knowing that you’re covered with a nutritional base … a launching pad for living on this planet for many years to come … as healthily as possible.
Then, you can add to your supplement regimen with other things that may or may not be found in any kind of diet—simply because our foods do not contain them.
- 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 Epidemiol143:907-17, 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 Sci1996;79:329-33.
- Blot WJ, Vitamin/mineral supplementation and cancer risk: international chemoprevention trials. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med 216:291-6, 1997.