The Problem with My Parents

by Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc, ND

Don’t get me wrong, I love my mom and dad, but some times I’m surprised by just how naive they are about news relating to health issues. My mom last week said to me “Did you see the news story about how multivitamins can be bad for your health?” I had seen it and for about a millisecond paid attention to it, until it was blatantly obvious that it was just a lot of baloney. The item suggested that multivitamins can contain amounts of vitamins and minerals that are different than what is printed on the label. This is absolutely true and often true of poor quality “drug store” multivitamins – the kind that I’m always advising my clients against. The news item suggested that because of this they may be harmful – which is likely untrue. Most drug store multivitamins contain amounts of vitamins and minerals that are low and often forms of vitamins and minerals that are poorly absorbed. They likely won’t do any harm but probably won’t do any good either.

If you want a quick gauge for how good your multivitamin is, check to see if the calcium is in the calcium carbonate form and the magnesium is in the form of magnesium oxide. These are both very poor quality, very cheap and very poorly absorbed forms of these minerals – the hallmark of a poor quality multi. Better absorbed forms are calcium citrate and magnesium citrate or magnesium glycinate.

And don’t be like my mom – if you hear negative stories in the news about vitamins, take it with a grain of salt. The media sensationalizes these stories because they are more juicy than reporting on the 100 other studies that show that multivitamins help protect against cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Don’t expect to see the headline “Multivitamins Are Good For You” any time soon. Also, the conspiracy theorist in me suggests that when Pharmaceutical companies pay big bucks for advertising during the evening news, the health news stories are probably not going to be in favour of good preventative medicine like taking a multivitamin every day – but maybe that’s just me.