Choosing a multi-vitamin shouldn’t be an all-day chore. But if you’ve stood in front of the vitamin display at your local supermarket lately, you know how overwhelming just choosing a vitamin can be. Obviously, the best person to ask about any nutritional supplement is your doctor and if you have any health concerns, talking to a qualified medical professional is vital. But if you’re looking for a supplement to “fill in the gaps”, here are my suggestions for choosing a good multi-vitamin.
Name Brand Vitamins vs. Generics
Generally, I like to stay with name-brands. Generics are often a bit cheaper than name brands but sometimes that difference is made up in lower-quality ingredients. A study released in January 2007 and done by ConsumerLab.com found that half the vitamins they tested failed quality tests. Some of the failed brands contained too little of some vitamins while others, including one marketed specifically for children, contained well over the RDA for some nutrients.
Another problem sometimes associated with off-brand supplements is that they take too long to break down. In the study by ConsumerLab.com, researchers found at least 2 brands that took so long to break down that they could pass completely through your digestive system without delivering the nutrients they claim to contain.
Staying with a name brand doesn’t automatically guarantee a better product but many of the best-performing supplements are name brands with proven track records.
What About “Specialty” Vitamins?
One of the hottest trends in supplements is what marketers refer to as “specialty” vitamins. Just a quick look at the vitamin aisle will demonstrate this trend. There are vitamins for men, vitamins for seniors, vitamins for “active” people–you name it. There’s nothing really wrong with taking a specialty vitamin but you may find that the difference has more to do with marketing than nutrition.
Are Mega-Vitamins Safe?
Unless your doctor specifically tells you otherwise, there’s no reason to take more than the recommended daily allowance, or RDA, of any vitamin or mineral. Taking significantly more than the RDA of any given vitamin can result in illness, permanent organ damage or even death.
Should You Take A Vitamin Every Day?
Ideally, multi-vitamins should be used as a fail-safe. In other words, you should work to get all the nutrition you need from the foods you eat. But if that’s not possible, a good multi-vitamin can certainly fill in the “gaps”. Taking a multi-vitamin at the same time every day can keep you in a routine that easy to follow but unless your doctor advises you otherwise, you’re probably perfectly fine skipping a day here and there.
Vitamins For Special Needs
It wasn’t so long ago that finding vitamins without dyes, gluten or other potential allergens meant special-ordering your supplements from a pharmacist. Today, dye-free, gluten-free supplements are fast becoming mainstream. If your doctor has advised you to avoid certain ingredients, ask him for a recommendation. Or talk to your pharmacist.
Remember, only your doctor is qualified to give you medical advice. If you have any questions about supplements like multi-vitamins, ask your primary care provider for information tailored for your specific health needs.