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Put Your Multi-Vitamin to the Test
By Allen S. Josephs, M.D.
Board Certified in Internal Medicine
Board Certified in Neurology
There are certain essential ingredients that are critical requirements for any excellent multivitamin. Use this analysis to see how your multi stacks up. For each ingredient, compare my recommended daily amounts and forms with what you're getting in your multivitamin.
Natural Carotenoids color fruits and vegetables and provide excellent antioxidant protection. Betatene is a natural blend with the beta-carotene being the major component. 5,000 IU is an optimal level. Floraglo standardized Lutein at 120 mg providing 6 mg elemental is proven to promote healthy vision and reduce the risk of macular degeneration. The most popular mass-market multi contains only ¼ of a mg, which is NOT PROVEN to work as such low levels.
Ester-C is a more effective vitamin C when compared to ascorbic acid. It is PH neutral, better utilized by the body and retained longer. In fact, studies indicate Ester-C promotes healthy joints but ascorbic acid failed to provide similar benefits. 500 - 1,000 mg is the ideal range. One study indicated men who received 500 mg per day lived 6 years longer versus others received less.
Natural Vitamin E and tocopheryls provide excellent protection from cholesterol oxidation (the major event that leads to heart attacks and stroke) and promote a healthy immune system. Several studies have also indicated Vitamin E protects the brain from aging and has even provided benefits to Alzheimer's patients. Natural Vitamin E at 400 - 800 IU per day is optimal. The natural form is up to 3X more effective versus synthetic (most cheap mass market multis use the synthetic form and provide levels that are grossly inadequate). It is also critical to include the gamma form to eliminate a toxic free radical the alpha form does not.
B - Complex vitamins include folic acid, B1, B2, Niacin, B5, B6 and B12 B vitamins are critical for producing energy and maintaining a healthy heart and nervous system. Hundreds of studies prove that folic acid, B6 and B12 lower a toxic compound called homocysteine. People with elevated levels of homocysteine have up to 5X great risk of heart attack and stroke when compared to elevated cholesterol levels. Levels and forms are critical for the best results. For optimal homocysteine levels 800 - 1,000 mcg of folic acid, 50 - 100 mg B6 and 500 mcg - 2,000 mcg of B12 are recommended. In fact, a study just published in the Journal of the American Medical Association stated if people received 1,000 mcg of folic acid and 500 mcg of B12 per day over 300,000 lives in the U.S. would be saved each year from heart disease. It is important for the B12 to be in the form called methylcobalamin. This is the active form of B12 and is up to 100X more potent when compared to the others forms most multivitamins use. In fact, studies have shown this form can achieve blood levels only injections could have reached in the past. Studies also indicate this form may provide regenerative capabilities to the nervous system and improve sleep.
Calcium Citrate Malate, Magnesium taurate/citrate and Vitamin D provide the nutrients required to maintain healthy bones. Most men do no realize but as they age they also lose bone mass just as women do. There was a large double-blind, placebo study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that proves 500 mg (elemental) of Calcium Citrate Malate and 700 IU of Vitamin D completely reversed bone loss and actually increased bone mass in the elderly and reduced the fracture rates by 60%. Many studies prove the benefits of magnesium for bone health and cardiovascular health. Calcium Citrate Malate is up to 10X better absorbed when compared to Calcium Carbonate (ground up rock that has the adverse effect of neutralizing stomach acid required to digest your food!). You should realize that it takes a gross amount of 2,000 mg Calcium Citrate Malate to equal 500 mg elemental. Nutraceutical Sciences Institute (NSI) quotes all calcium and magnesium levels as elemental and uses the required gross amount to achieve these levels. Many products on the market quote the gross levels on their labels versus elemental.
Selenium and Chromium are micronutrient minerals that provide excellent benefits if the right forms and levels are used. There was a large double-blind, placebo controlled study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicating 200 mcg per day of selenomethionine reduced the risk of cancer by up to 50% and reduced overall cancer mortality by 37%. Most multis do not contain the form and level of selenium used is this study. Additional studies have indicated People with high levels of Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and Selenium appear to have a 70% lower risk of developing macular degeneration. Macular degeneration is the main reason people go blind as they age.
Chromium in the form of polynicotinate (ChromeMate) is vastly superior to other forms. It is several times more effective at assisting insulin utilization. Chromium promotes optimal blood sugar and insulin levels. It increases lean muscle and reduces body fat. 200 - 400 mcg per day is optimal.
Bioflavonoids and polyphenols are proven to be more effective antioxidants when compared to Vitamins E and C. The best sources of these are standardized red wine, green tea, grape seed (the activin form is the best studied with many proven benefits), quercetin and citrus. One study indicated that people who consume 2 - 3 glasses per day of red wine have 50% less mortality from all causes. There are many studies proving green tea protects the brain and reduces cancer incidence. Medical studies indicate those with the highest levels of quercetin (found in apples) have a 50 - 70% reduction in heart disease and strokes. It is critical to use standardized forms and look for combined levels of 250 mg - 500 mg in total of these powerful antioxidants.
Garlic, Ginkgo, Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) and CoQ10 provide incredible antioxidant benefits for the brain and cardiovascular system. Ginkgo has been proven to promote circulation and provide benefits for memory. ALA recycles other antioxidants and protects the nervous system. Garlic protects the blood vessels from oxidizing and prevents blood from clotting. The average person receives 1 mg per day of CoQ10, no Ginkgo, little garlic and little ALA and most multis do not even include these ultra effective and expensive nutrients. A good multi should contain 10 - 60 mg per day of CoQ10, 400 - 900 mg per day of garlic and 30 - 120 mg per day of Ginkgo and ALA.
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