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Dr. Tori Hudson, Portland, Oregon, Blog Healthline Blog

VitaminsAs the saying goes, you usually get what you pay for. But just so you know what you’re paying for, multivitamin-mineral supplements vary in four basic ways:

  1. ingredients
  2. potency
  3. quality
  4. manufacturing process

In general, however, basic mass-market multiples are often sold at a lower price because they are inferior in one or more of those four basic ways. Typically, they omit mixed carotenoids, bioflavonoids and smaller minerals and nutrients such as vitamin K, boron and iodine. Because they contain fewer ingredients, and often not some of the premier more costly ingredients such as CoQ10, they are less expensive. One of the most striking differences is the amount of individual ingredients. For instance, vitamin D may range from 100 IU to 400 IU; calcium may vary from 200 mg to 500 mg. Taking one capsule/tablet per day may be what is written on the label, but serving sizes may be 2 or 3 capsules in order to get the total on the label. The point is, read the label carefully so you are taking the number of capsules you need to take, in order to get the dose on the label. Many of the vitamins and minerals are available in more than one form and some are more bioavailable than others. Bioavailability is determined by absorption or more efficient use by the body. For instance, calcium carbonate is usually less expensive, but for some people it is constipating and they do better with calcium citrate – this is not necessarily more expensive, but it is a bulkier form of calcium with less elemental calcium per pill, so you have to take more pills to get the dose you have targeted. Many vitamins are synthetic and aren’t available in natural forms. Beta carotene for example comes in a natural or synthetic form and better yet, some multiples contain natural mixed carotenoids and the natural form of other vitamins, which provide additional more potent antioxidant effects. Processing methods also vary, and some of those methods expose the nutrients to greater heat less stable conditions, and use additives and dyes which can render them with less nutritional value.

One capsule/tablet per day mass market multis are usually very low potency, contain the less desired form of the nutrient, omit some important ingredients that would be optimal for a daily vitamin, and contain unnecessary additives. Look for multis where the serving size is 2 or 3 capsules per day, have mixed natural carotenoids, have some of the extras such as bioflavonoids, vitamin K, boron, iodine and then you have to be a bit studious in order to learn about the more bio-available forms of nutrients. The book, Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements by Michael Murray, N.D. is an excellent resource for this.

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