Top 5 Multivitamin Myths Debunked
Myth 1: I don’t need a multivitamin since I can get my vitamins from food.
This is true that you can get most of your needed vitamins and nutrients from food. After all, the cavemen did it for years. However, the cavemen did not process their food into small packages, and they didn’t genetically alter their food. Moreover, a caveman didn’t live beyond 30 or 40 years old, so if you’re shooting for 40 – you do not need a multivitamin!
Although it is true that you can get all of your vitamins and nutrients from food, most people rarely get the plant-based variety that they truly need even if you are vegan. People tend to stick to items that they like and are easy to prepare. So, if you are eating “the rainbow” every day and always buying a different set of vegetables at the grocery store every time that you go, then you might be getting the right variety. However, this is highly unlikely. Especially since many of the plants with the highest antioxidant load and beneficial nutrients have a bitter taste. Most humans do not like bitter.
Myth 2: All Multivitamins are created equal.
Wow. No. Not at all. Centrum doesn’t sell their multivitamin for $5 because it has the same nutrient composition as a $60 multivitamin. In fact, many of the multivitamin companies only put the basic requirements in their multivitamins. Does your multivitamin have folic acid (folate) or L-Methylfolate? Folic acid is dirt cheap while L-Methylfolate is more expensive yet much more effective. See my MTHFR Article for more information on that key difference.
Another reason to reach for a multivitamin is for its antioxidant capacity. You need one that has the “essentials” plus additional antioxidants. However, antioxidants add to the cost. Someone really smart came up with a scale called Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) in order to put a numerical quantity to the antioxidant power of a substance. It is important to compare multivitamins using this scale. I have included a graph for you to see the difference between multivitamins: Centrum got a score of 120, One-A-Day got a score of 149. I am not as familiar with some of the other brands listed, but I am familiar with PhytoMulti which scored a 25,000 on the ORAC score when taken twice per day. If you take it once per day, it is still 12,500 which outranks all the other multivitamins on the chart. So, to crush the myth … no, not all multivitamins are created equal. Get a good one!
Here is a chart that shows foods with excellent antioxidant (or ORAC) values.
Myth 3. What’s listed on the label is actually in the product.
Well, not really. Vitamins and supplements are regulated differently than pharmaceutical grade prescriptions. They are not considered medications, so they are allowed more leeway to making claims that stretch the truth. They are also allowed to claim the ingredients in their product without rigorous testing. The false manufacturers can only get busted if a third party pulls their product off the shelf and sends it for testing. As it turns out, researchers have done this testing before, and they have proven that many of the low quality vitamins do not contain the ingredients listed. This has given the supplement industry a bad reputation. However, this is why we only recommend getting vitamins / supplements from trusted Nutraceutical companies that consistently send off their products to be tested by third party laboratories.
Myth 4: Health claims on the label are scientifically valid.
I think we all realize that these outrageous claims are rarely backed by any evidence. The FDA has minimal restrictions on the claims that supplements can make on the label. Compared to pharmaceuticals (prescriptions), this is a drastic difference. Drug representatives cannot discuss anything with me or on a TV commercial if they have not directly proven it through science. For instance, Topiramate is a drug frequently used for seizures and migraines. However, it can also work for anxiety, bipolar, weight loss, and tension headaches, but these would be considered off-label uses. The drug company and drug representatives cannot make any references or hints at being used for those off-label uses. Otherwise, they can get sued for LARGE sums of money. However, a supplement, like fish oil, can claim that “it may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.” The truth about that statement is that the scientific research has not been as robust as we would like to think it is regarding fish oil. The FDA lets that statement slide on a supplement. On the flip side, if Vascepa, a prescription EPA-only fish oil, put that statement on its drug label, it would immediately be removed from the shelf, and the company would be sued. They are welcome to make any claims that they have studied, such as reducing triglycerides. They cannot make any statements about reducing the risk of coronary heart disease unless they study that outcome specifically. Interesting, isn’t it?
Myth 5: Multivitamins just make expensive urine.
This myth is not entirely false. Your body urinates out excess vitamins that it doesn’t need. Great! However, you do not know which ones that your body did need, and it absorbed. All B Vitamins are water soluble. The yellow color is primarily from Riboflavin which your body absorbs, keeps what it needs, then urinates out the excess giving your urine a bright yellow color. If your urine does NOT turn yellow after a multivitamin, it either has low levels of B vitamins, is expired, or does not actually contain the ingredients listed on the label.
Bonus Myth: Myth 6: “All natural” vitamins are better.
The term natural is not a regulated term at all. This is a very easy term to throw around which carries absolutely no bearing on the product. After all, High Fructose Corn Syrup is natural, right? Of course it is, it comes from corn which is a natural vegetable. Hopefully, you could detect the sarcasm in that sentence since High Fructose Corn Syrup is one of the leading causes of obesity in this country (in my opinion), and there is nothing “natural” about it.