Natural health products are very popular nowadays, especially multivitamins. The downfall of having supplements readily available at the local grocer or online is that many people think that they can self-prescribe correctly.
I often hear people say that a “natural health product didn’t work for me.” With further investigation, I find out that they did not take the product at the right time or in the correct dosage or form for their body type. Or, they chose a poor quality product.
Many people believe that since these products are so accessible and don’t require a prescription, they must be simple to use. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I have spent countless hours studying which supplements are the best. Also, when I put a personalized nutritional protocol together for a client, it takes me about ten hours of research before I make a single recommendation of what to take.
One of the most popular supplements on the market is the multi-vitamin Centrum. What many people don’t realize is that this multivitamin is probably doing more harm than good.
A Few Centrum Multivitamins Facts
- Centrum is a product from by the company Pfizer, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world.
- The dosages of most of the nutrients in Centrum are negligible and not even close to therapeutic levels. As just one example, many Centrum formulas have 800 IUs of Vitamin D. This doesn’t even meet the government recommended daily allowance (RDA) of 1000 IUs, and it’s nowhere close to the therapeutic levels that I would use for health.
- The forms that the nutrients are provided in are the cheapest and the least absorbable forms.
- Supplements that come in tablet form are often hard to digest and contain binders and fillers. Centrum also has chewables and gummies, but with those forms you also get more ingredients that detract from our health (more on this below).
- Water-soluble nutrients (Vitamin C and the B-vitamins) are either used or excreted within about 4 hours. Thus, a one-a-day multi is completely useless and a sure sign that it is of poor quality.
The Ingredients In Centrum Multivitamins
There are many different Centrum multivitamins, from prenatal to men to women to seniors. The list below includes ingredients from the general women’s multivitamin, but the forms and non-medicinal ingredients are similar across the different products, and also illustrates the problem with multivitamins that apply to other brands as well.
This is the least absorbable forms of calcium on the market. A very small percentage is actually absorbed.
This form of iron often causes constipation.
This is vitamin E and they are using two forms. The “D” form which is natural and the “L” Form which is synthetic. The “L” form is used to water-down the more expensive and bioactive “D” form.
This is the synthetic form of Vitamin B12, which is not as absorbable as the bioavailable methycobalamin form.
Vitamin K is a cofactor in bone health, but Vitamin K1 is not as easy for us to absorb as Vitamin K2, which has been shown to be more beneficial to bone density.
The Non-Medical Ingredients in Centrum Multivitamins
Aside from the sub-par forms of vitamins and minerals in the formula, each bottle contains over 25 non-medicinal ingredients. These are some of the ingredients that concern me.
Corn Starch, Maltodextrin and Modified Food Starch
These binders that hold all of the ingredients together. These are most likely derived from genetically modified corn, which presents a number of problems for sensitive people. There is also some evidence that starches like maltodextrin may cause some digestive distress and metabolic issues.
Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT)
This can be toxic to the liver, thyroid, kidney, and lungs, and can affect blood coagulation, as well as act as a tumor promoter.
FD&C Blue No.2 Aluminum Lake and FD&C Red No.40 Aluminum Lake
Food dyes that have been linked to cancer and hypersensitivity, are genotoxic (meaning they damage our DNA).
Gelatin is derived from animal sources (cow, pigs, fish) and may not be the best quality, depending on whether the gelatin came from a feedlot animal.
This preservative may cause organ toxicity and metabolic issues. In animals, it has been shown to cause anxiety and motor issues.
Also used in baby powder, some companies use talc to prevent ingredients from clumping together. Talc increases the risk of cancer, particularly ovarian cancer.
These nanoparticles cause inflammation and are genotoxic.
In vitro studies show this ingredient can damage the intestinal barrier and compromise nutrient absorption.
Glucose Syrup and Sucrose
These are refined sugars, which are linked to cancer, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Centrum multivitamin gummies and chewables contain additional forms of sugar like corn syrup, invert sugar, fruit juice and d-mannitol, as well as hydrogenated fats and oils.
It may seem like I’m picking on Centrum, but its problems apply to other brands of multivitamins too. Most multis aren’t high quality, and contain loads of non-medicinal ingredients our bodies don’t need. Some may argue that these preservatives, fillers, colours and flavours are ‘generally recognized as safe’ (GRAS). I contend that when companies combine many GRAS ingredients, and we take them day after day after day, we simply can’t say for sure that they are safe as companies claim.
Tips For Choosing A Multivitamin
One of my rules when shopping for nutritional supplements is to never buy supplements in a drug store. Staff expertise is about drugs, not supplements and nutrition. Centrum is only available in drug stores and is advertised as the “#1-recommended doctor multivitamin”, but remember doctors receive no more than 40 hours of nutrition training.
Some considerations when choosing a multivitamin:
- Go to a health food store and talk to an employee about a good quality multivitamin.
- Look for a multi with a dosage of at least 2-3 capsules per day. As I mentioned earlier, we quickly use and excrete some vitamins so those ‘one a day’ formulas aren’t going to help you absorb those nutrients.
- You get what you pay for: Usually the more expensive the multi is, the better the product because the more absorbable forms of vitamins and minerals are more expensive.
- Don’t buy it if it says “doctor-recommended” on the label or if a pharmaceutical company distributes it.
- Consult with a clinical nutritionist to determine the right multi-vitamin for you, or even if you need to take one. If you have a specific nutrient deficiency, you’re not going to get enough of that single nutrient from a multivitamin. This is where a practitioner with supplement expertise can help.
- Given the low number of nutrients in multivitamins, most healthy adults are likely to get more nutrients from consuming dark leafy greens, berries, eggs, and other nutritious whole foods. You’d be better off spending your money on good quality food instead of drugstore multivitamins!
For most of us, a nutrient-rich diet will give us the vitamins and minerals we need to support good health. If you need to take a multivitamin, finding a good quality option is definitely the way to go!
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