Quality Vitamins: A How-to Guide

Americans love vitamins. Research shows about half of all adults take a daily multivitamin among other more specific supplements. Now, over the past few months, we discussed a lot of issues around vitamin consumption. Lack of FDA regulation, cancer causing, interference with medications, just to name a few, however, we're not writing them off entirely. 

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Your Personalized Vitamin Regimen

Just as not all vitamins are created equal, not everyone's vitamin regimen are the same. Talk to your doctor about your various levels such as vitamin D, C, and B and create a vitamin plan together from there. Ask for a blood test to determine your current levels. It's also important to monitor your levels once you've embarked on a vitamin plan. 

It's also important to understand the correct dosage. Popping too many vitamins or supplements can result in health issues. For example, too much vitamin D can cause kidney stones, because it increases the calcium amount in the body. Use only what you need. 

Also, if your doctor recommends specific supplements, ask about the correct form you should be taking it in.

Look for Certified Seals

This isn't always a flawless method but it's important to look for certified seals from various non-profit organizations who evaluate vitamins for purity and quality. 

The most common organizations are:

They work in accordance with manufacturers, who voluntarily submit a product for review. If the product passes the purity and quality evaluation tests, the vitamin or supplement will be adorned with the approval seal. 

Do Your Due Diligence Around Brands

One of the major problems with vitamins, is that they aren't FDA regulated in the same way as food and drugs. Therefore, a higher price may not necessarily mean a higher quality. ConsumerLab.com tests thousands of vitamins every year, and found that 30 percent of multivitamins have a quality problem. Issues such as the pills might have more or less of a stated ingredient, or they might not dissolve properly can result from this.

The key is to find a reputable source. Every manufacter has access to the same ingredients, therefore paying more won't necessarily get you better vitamins.  Purchase yours from a well-known store that restocks often. This can avoid the chance of buying older products. If bottles are sitting in the sun they may degrade even before their expiration date. 

The Vitamins Themselves

Is the supplement hypoallergenic?

Hypoallergenic is an important factor in vitamin quality. The optimal products shouldn't contain Gluten, corn, wheat, milk, milk byproducts like lactose or casein, citrus, potato starch, eggs, yeast or soy.

Tablet v. Capsule Form

Capsules always break down in the typical digestive tract. Tablets tend to have an inconsistent breakdown, they are formed with compression which makes it difficult to break up. If there is too little stomach acid, you may have your vitamin pass through your body almost whole.

Tablets also have to have a coating- usually labeled as pharmaceutical glaze or some other benign phrase. Most of these are actually a derivative of corn, one of the most typical allergens. 

Does the supplement contain dyes, artificial ingredients, preservatives or sugars?

Optimal vitamin products don't contain sugar-glucose, dextrose, maltose. Using an ingredient that ends in -ose is just a sugar to your body. To take it even further, no vitamin should contain artificial sweeteners like saccharin or aspartame. 

Does the supplement contain flowing agents or fillers?

Typical flowing (waxy) agents are magnesium stearate, calcium stearate or sometimes ascorbyl palmitate. These allow the manufacturers to quickly produce the supplement by moving it through machinery well. This can prevent the vitamin from being absorbed in the body due to the waxy coating. 

 

Do the mineral and vitamins come in the most bio-available forms?

Minerals are best absorbed in the citrate/malate or aspartate forms. Vitamin E should be in the d-alpha form. This aspect of vitamin and mineral composition is critical for your health, but quite a broad subject. Clarify with your doctor for advice.

Other questions to ask:

  • Do the products have all the key ingredients they claim on the label?
  • Do they products have too much of an ingredient? 
  • Are the products contaminated with heavy metals like lead?
  • What health benefits does this supplement offer me?
  • Do I need this supplement for my health, either to treat a medical condition or help prevent disease?
  • When and for how long do I need to take this supplement?
  • Which form of the vitamin (vitamin D2 or D3, for instance) is the best?
  • Does this supplement or vitamin have any known side effects?
  • Does this supplement interact with any medications or foods?