Part 1 – What to Look for and What to Avoid in a Multivitamin Supplement
There are always multiple threads on any given health forum that are dedicated to the further quandary of what the best multivitamin is that an individual can take. I hate to break it to you, but there is no “perfect” multivitamin. With that being said, there are still some multivitamins that I can recommend people take to save some money over buying individual supplements.
What to Look for in a Multivitamin
Quality Mineral Chelations
The best standard chelation for any mineral would be glycinate. Minerals that are chelated with glycinate have some of the highest absorption rates. Other used chelations that are appropriate include monomethionine, malate, methionine, sulfate, gluconate, lysinate, L-threonate, chloride, and picolinate.
Best Chelations of Certain Minerals
Certain minerals have better chelations than even glycinate chelations. These minerals include selenium, zinc, iron, and chromium. The best chelations of these minerals will be listed first.
Se-methyl L-selenocysteine, selenomethionine
Chromium chelidamate arginate, chromium polynicotinate
The best-chelated forms of iron are iron bisglycinate and iron picolinate. I recommend that most people do not take iron unless necessary. Generally, low iron and ferritin stem from cerulopaslmin and gut issues.
Non-GMO vitamin C and vitamin E
Most vitamin C in supplement form is made from corn dextrose fermentation. Corn dextrose can come from GMO sources. Most supplemental vitamin E is produced from GMO soybean oil unless listed as either from non-GMO soybean oil or rice bran oil.
Mixed Tocopherols/Tocotrienols (vitamin E)
Vitamin E is a complex family of vitamin substances that are made up of four types of tocopherols and four types of tocotrienols. Both substances have alpha, beta, gamma, and delta forms. It is better to have a multivitamin that has a mixture of all the different forms of vitamin E instead of a multivitamin that just provides alpha-tocopherol. The best source of tocopherols and tocotrienols for multivitamins are from rice bran.
Vitamin K, just like vitamin E, is a complex family of vitamin substances. There are five main different types of vitamin K. Vitamin K1 is the form that is found mostly in plants. It is found in the highest quantities in the green leafy vegetables that we consume. The body can recognize K1 as a vitamin K and can convert it into vitamin K2 if needed. This conversion does not happen very often in people with poor digestive systems because proper probiotic intestinal bacterial population is needed for the conversion to happen properly. Vitamin K2 is the main form of Vitamin K that is found in the human body and is the form that we consume from animal meat and products. The different forms of vitamin K2 are characterized by the number of isoprenoid (a large, diverse class of naturally occurring organic chemicals) residues in their side chains. Vitamin K2 Mk-4 and Mk-7 are the most common types of Vitamin K2 that are used in supplements. Vitamin K2 Mk-4 is the best supplemental form of Vitamin K because it is what is produced from the conversion of Vitamin K1 by our intestinal probiotic bacteria.
Vitamin K’s biological role in the body is to help regulate proper blood-clotting mechanisms. Vitamin D synergistically works with vitamin K to promote proper bone growth and function. Vitamin K2 is used by the body as a fat-soluble electron carrier and helps to increase mitochondrial function. Vitamin K supplementation delays or can even help reverse atherosclerosis in some people. Vitamin K3 is synthetic and is banned for use in supplementation for humans in the U.S. This is because of potential liver damage associated with the synthetic vitamin. Vitamins K4 and K5 are synthetic forms of vitamin K that is poorly absorbed and, therefore, should not be used. Finally, it is always best to get your vitamin K in your multivitamin from non-GMO sources.
5′-Phosphate Forms of B Vitamins
The phosphate forms of B vitamins are also known as coenzyme B vitamins. The body phosphorylates some B vitamins so that they can be actively used on a cellular level. Taking B vitamins that have been phosphorylated keeps the body from having to give up its phosphate groups for the conversion of some standard B vitamins. Coenzyme B vitamins have higher levels of absorption, as well.
Folate is always superior to the cheaper folic acid supplement. Most people absorb folic acid poorly. Folic acid is an oxidized synthetic compound that must be converted to methyltetrahydrofolate in the liver. The body has a hard time on a cellular level converting and methylating folic acid, so very little methyltetrahydrofolate is produced from folic acid to be bioavailable in the body. The best supplemental form of folate is L-5-MTHF. Folinic acid can also be supplemented and is still better than folic acid. Remember, do not supplement with folate or folic acid without knowing your methylation status.
Methylcobalamin (Hydroxocobalamin, Adenosylcobalamin)
Any of these mentioned forms of B12 is better than the standard form cyanocobalamin. Cyanocobalamin is worthless in raising vitamin B12 levels in most cases. This is because cyanocobalamin is very poorly absorbed, has to steal a methyl group in the body to produce methylcobalamin, and releases a little bit of inorganic cyanide into the body with every pill! Methylcobalamin, hydroxocobalamin, adenosylcobalamin are the forms your body naturally uses and each have their own use depending on your methylation pathways.
It is best to get your vitamin D3 produced endogenously from the sun, but some prefer to take the supplemental form. Always make sure the vitamin D in the supplement is D3 and not the inferior D2.
The More Capsules, the Better
One-a-day multivitamins are some of the worst quality multivitamin supplements that are for sale. The reasoning behind this theory is that it takes massive amounts of heat and pressure to condense all the needed vitamins and minerals into one pill. This process denatures some of the vitamins and wastes some of the minerals during supplement production. In addition, your multivitamin intake should be broken up between breakfast and dinner for optimal absorption. Usually a multivitamin requiring six or more capsules/day is best and should be split between morning and night.
Capsules, Powdered, Soft gels, and Liquid Multivitamins Are the Best Forms
As far as absorption of supplements is concerned, tablets are the worst. Most tablets, unless they are guaranteed to break down fully during digestion, are useless. The tiers for the assimilation of different supplements go:
Liquid > Powder > Soft gels > Liquid Capsules > Dry Capsules > Tablets
Fewer Fillers Are Always Better
The fewer fillers used in a multivitamin, the better the quality of the multivitamin is. Some supplemental fillers considered safe and used commonly are silicon dioxide, magnesium laurate, leucine, rice flour, celluose, vegetable glycerin, and possibly vegetable stearate.
When purchasing multivitamins, always buy brands that are well established for excellent quality controls.
What to Avoid in a Multivitamin
Multivitamins in tablet form are usually poorly absorbed. You might do alright with the tablet form of a supplement if it is guaranteed to dissolve. To test if a tablet supplement will dissolve properly, use a mixture of a little water and a good-quality digestive enzyme (e.g., Enzymedica), and pour the mixture onto the tablet placed in a bowl. Come back after a few hours and see if the tablet has dissolved most of the way. If so, then it has a better chance of being assimilated fully in the body.
Try to stay away from the following fillers when purchasing any multivitamins: magnesium stearate, aluminosilicate, crospovidone, modified food starch, polyethylene glycol, polypropylene glycol, maltodextrin, polysorbate 80, corn starch, food dyes, non-vegetable glycerin, benzoic acid, potassium sorbate, BHT, and BHA.
Poor-Quality Mineral Chelations and Forms
Poor-quality mineral chelations include aspartate, pidolate, and oxide. Too much aspartate (aspartic acid) or pidolate (glutamic acid), which may be assimilated in the body by the chelations, might become neurotoxic. Any mineral chelated with oxide in the body would be poorly absorbed. In addition cheap forms of copper including cupric sulfate and chelations of selenium like sodium selenite are common in most cheap multivitamins. They are the inorganic forms of the minerals and can be harmful in the body. These chelations can be harmful because they are poorly absorbed, hard for the body to use properly, and difficult for the body to eliminate.
Poor Forms of Individual Vitamins
These include vitamin D2, cyanocobalamin, vitamin K3, K4, K5, and folic acid. The body very poorly absorbs most of these forms of vitamins; therefore, they are useless.
“Natural” multivitamins is one of the biggest scams running in natural health today. A “natural” multivitamin is comprised of a bunch of brewer’s yeast compressed into supplemental form. Most “natural” multivitamins are made from feeding Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a yeast, synthetic vitamins which they retain in their cell walls. The problem with using Saccharomyces cerevisiae as a vitamin carrier is twofold.
The first problem is that people who are allergic or sensitive to yeast will be sensitive to these multivitamins.
Second, the forms of the vitamins and minerals that you will absorb from the Saccharomyces cerevisiae medium are the same synthetic vitamins and mineral chelations that standard multivitamin use.
The main issue with this is that you don’t know what synthetic vitamins the companies are feeding the yeast (Protip: I doubt they use the best forms of synthetic vitamins.) In addition, most mineral amounts from these “natural” multivitamins are low, because it is currently a difficult process to extract minerals from the Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Most of the “natural” multivitamins have extremely low levels of one of the most important minerals for supplementation—magnesium. All of these are reasons I cannot recommend most “natural” multivitamins to anyone.
GMO Vitamin C, Vitamin K2, and Vitamin E
Since most of the Vitamin E, Vitamin K2, and Vitamin C in multivitamins are GMO and very heavily processed, I let this slide. In addition because of this fact, GMO proteins might not exist in the final product. Having any GMOs in multivitamins still concerns me though.
Do not buy your multivitamin from any company that is not on this list. Any multivitamin that you can buy from a big box store or pharmacy is garbage.
See more from this series:
- How to Know Which Multivitamin Supplement Is Best for You? Part 1
- How to Know Which Multivitamin Supplement Is Best for You? Part 2