I don’t want to embarrass anybody by naming names, but certain other health professionals recommend garbage vitamins to their patients because they haven’t spent 15 years studying vitamin and mineral quality. Buckle your seatbelt because you’re in for a rant. Here are the top 3 garbage supplements in my mind and why:
- Palafer – this is an iron supplement that contains 300 mg of ferrous fumarate per capsule. If I had a nickel for every iron deficient patient who was put on it and then suffered terrible GI side effects like constipation, bloating and diarrhea I’d be rich. It causes these side effects because it’s a very high dose of very poorly absorbed iron. Iron is a metal and metals rust. Rust is oxidation. Oxidation is a bad thing in the body, it’s something we try to avoid because it can damage DNA and cause premature aging. We take anti-oxidants like vitamin C to combat oxidation. It’s cheap for the manufacturer to put this form in and then charge an exorbitant amount of money for it as a pharmaceutical. My approach is to us a much lower dose of much better absorbed iron.
- Materna – This drug store prenatal multivitamin is a perfect example of what’s wrong with drug store vitamins generally. The product contains the cheapest and most poorly absorbed forms of the various vitamins and minerals in it – calcium carbonate, magnesium oxide, synthetic vitamin E, ferrous fumarate (iron), zinc oxide, inactive vitamin B2 and B6 and inactive folate and has no boron, copper or vitamin K. By comparison our recommended prenatal, Thorne Basic Prenatal, has higher amounts of almost everything, active forms of vitamin B2, B6 and folic acid (very important!), readily absorbed forms of all of the minerals, vitamin K to ensure that calcium gets into the developing baby’s bones and teeth.
- Preg Vit – this excuse for a prenatal multivitamin is even more ridiculous. Synthetic vitamin E, cheap, poorly absorbed forms of the minerals, no vitamin K, selenium, manganese, chromium, molybdenum or boron, negligible B12, little vitamin D and inactive folic acid. Depending on which one you are taking you may be getting either 1.1 mg of inactive folic acid or 5 mg. Either way, if you are one of the 25-60% of the population who can’t convert inactive folic acid to active folic acid you aren’t getting any benefit from taking it and there is potential for harm. Some research has suggested that excessive folate in someone with an existing tumor may promote tumor growth. This doesn’t mean you should stop taking your folic acid, there are clear benefits to preventing birth defects, however I would recommend using some of the active form of folic acid, L-5-tetrahydrofolate. And here’s the kicker, look at the list of “non-medicinal ingredients” in Preg Vit: ammonium hydroxide, N-butyl alcohol, carnauba wax, D&C Red #27, FD&C Blue #1, FD&C Blue #2, FD&C Red #40, FD&C Yellow #6, isopropyl alcohol, macrogol/PEG 3350, magnesium stearate, microcrystalline cellulose, polyvinyl alcohol, propylene glycol, shellac glaze, simethicone, sodium croscarmellose, sodium lauryl sulfate, starch (corn starch), talc, titanium dioxide. Can any of those dyes, chemicals and talc be good for your baby?
The moral of this story are that drug store vitamins are usually formulated with one thing in mind – profit and that it takes a trained eye to choose good quality natural supplements. Here endeth the rant!
Along with the fall and winter comes the potential for seasonal affective disorder appropriated abbreviated as SAD. Some quick prevention tips to start now:
- Vitamin D – one of the best cold and flu preventers there is and has also been shown to help prevent SAD
- Exercise – a natural mood booster
- Support the adrenal glands – studies have shown that SAD is associated with lower morning cortisol levels which is indicative of adrenal fatigue. Adrenals need lots of B vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium, zinc, potassium and tyrosine to function well.
If you watch the news (I don’t) or read the headlines (I try not to) you may have gotten the impression that multivitamins are bad for you this past week. I won’t lend any credibility to this study whatsoever by going into great detail about what they pretended to find, other than there is a mountain of research showing that taking a multivitamin every day helps prevent a host of diseases. The short version is that the study was manipulated it seems with malicious intent and extremely poorly done and should have been ridiculed by mainstream media rather than propagated. If you would like a more detailed version of what was wrong with the study here’s some interesting reading:
1. Anti-inflammatory diet – 10 servings of vegetables and fruit per day, especially lots of vividly coloured foods. Avoid processed grains and sugar. Increase omega 3 fatty acids from fish and raw nuts and seeds. Decrease caloric intake.
2. Water – consume at least 8 glasses per day, add some fresh lemon or lime juice to each glass.
3. Smoking – quit!
4. Exercise – be physically active for at least 6 hours per week including a combination of endurance, strength, flexibility and agility training.
5. Body Weight and Composition – Maintain a healthy BMI and body fat less than 18% for men and 22% for women.
6. Social Connection – spending time with family, friend and other social supports reduces stress, increases our feelings of connectedness and happiness.
7. Relaxation techniques – practice one or more of these daily: tai chi, yoga, breathing exercises, meditation, massage therapy
8. Alcohol – a small glass of high resveratrol red wine such as merlot, cabernet or pinot noir once per day or less may increase lifespan, too much will have negative health effects
9. Vitamins and minerals – Animal models have shown that CoQ10, R-lipoic acid, acetyl l-carnitine, phosphatidyl serine, N-acetyl cysteine, EGCG, trans-resveratrol, grape seed extract, polyphenols, vitamin C, vitamin D, B vitamins, selenium, zinc, lycopene, lutein, vitamin K2 MK-7, gamma and delta tocopherols and tocotrienols and omega 3 fatty acids increase lifespan and cognitive function in rats. At this point there has been some negative research on vitamin E so we no longer recommend it on it’s own as d- or dl-tocopherol. Most men should avoid iron supplements.
Adequate vitamin D and calcium nutrition throughout life may reduce the risk of osteoporosis, and calcium supplementation during pregnancy may reduce preeclampsia and low birth weight. Iron, iodine and zinc supplementation are widely needed for deficient women.
Source: Nutrition Research and Practice, Volume 5, Issue 1, pages 3-10, February 2011.