How to Chose a Multivitamin

In a recent post, we discussed the research surrounding multivitamins and their potential health benefits. Although some of the studies contradict each other, and some researchers still insist that there are dangers associated with these common supplements, they are widely used. If you do decide to take a multivitamin, how should you chose one from the dizzying selection available? What should you look for, and what should you avoid?

Keep It Basic

A recent trend amongst multivitamin manufacturers is the “special formula.” They tout heart health, extra energy, weight loss, improved memory or any number of other benefits — and sell these extra benefits for a higher price. Generally, though, these claims are untested, and often include ingredients that are not backed by the FDA. According to product review site Consumer Search, the uncertainty and risk aren’t worth the added cost.

Avoid Megadoses

Megadosing, or taking doses much higher than the recommended daily allowance, is also a common practice. It’s especially popular to take enormous doses of vitamin C, based on the thought that you can’t have too much of a good thing. Although the benefits of megadosing some substances, like vitamin C, are still heavily debated, other vitamins and minerals are known conclusively to be toxic in high doses. Potentially toxic ingredients include vitamin A, vitamin D and iron. To avoid the dangers associated with megadoses, do not take multivitamins that contain more than 100 percent of the recommended daily value.

Don’t look at a dosage of less than 100 percent of the  daily value as a sign of low quality. In fact, this may be a safer approach, considering that you also receive vitamins and minerals from your daily diet.

Ignore “Quality” Claims

Another claim that’s appearing with increasing frequency is that of “pharmaceutical grade” quality. These companies contend that their multivitamins are made in strictly controlled facilities, and so are of a higher overall quality than their competitors. However, research doesn’t show any increased efficacy from these pharmaceutical grade supplements, and the FDA doesn’t recognize or endorse these labels. So even though these companies may hold themselves to a higher standard, there is no evidence that their products work any better.

Consider Store Brands

Consumer Search, in comparing multivitamins, found that generic brands are just as good as pricier options. The supplements dissolved cleanly and easily, and accurately contained what the labels stated, two extremely important factors in deciding the quality of a multivitamin.

Do Your Research

Take the time to compare several brands of multivitamin, and research their quality once you have it narrowed down. Several online services offer quality comparisons between popular brands, including laboratory tests, to make sure that they contain what the labels say they contain and in the amounts stated. This a a key step — some subpar brands have even been found to contain toxic substances like lead.

Part of doing your research includes talking to your doctor. You may have a condition or health consideration that affects your need for certain vitamins and minerals. In addition, some medications can interact negatively with even something as gentle as a multivitamin, and your doctor should be able to warn you about any such possibilities.

Do you have any tips on what to look for in picking a multivitamin? Please share it with us in the comments!