There is no shortage of multivitamins available, but how effective are they? Although many of these multiples may provide at least some of the nutrients you need every day – vitamin A, vitamin C, and so forth -- most don’t provide the best forms of critical nutrients you need. Unfortunately, your body can’t effectively absorb these lowest common denominator ingredients and therefore, can’t derive any benefit.
In this Terry Talks Nutrition®, we’ll take a look at the crucial forms of the nutrients you need, and what to look for when selecting a truly effective multivitamin.
Active B Vitamins That Work
I’m sure you already know that B-vitamins are essential for good health, but did you know that the very forms of B-vitamins you get in your regimen can determine how healthy you are? In fact, many people are deficient in B vitamins, even if they’re taking a supplement.
First, B-vitamins are absorbed quickly, but need to be converted by the body into a usable form. For example, most multiple formulas feature a form of B12 called “cyanocobalamin”. The liver converts this to methylcobalamin, which in turn, supports your nerves, blood pressure, glucose levels, and energy. So my recommendation is that you simply take methylcobalamin right off the bat. Getting the forms that don’t need conversion by the liver or that are retained in the bloodstream better is crucial.
This is important for everyone, but especially when we get older. As we age, malabsorption of vitamin B12 becomes more prevalent due to changes in protein and enzyme levels and in the digestive tract. For instance, if pancreatic enzymes are in short supply, a specialized protein in the stomach, called intrinsic factor, won’t support vitamin B12 absorption, which affects about 10-15 percent of individuals over 60 years old.
But this same advice applies for other forms of B-vitamin as well. Here are some of the absolute essentials:
B1 (Thiamin) as Benfotiamine: Deficiency of B1, also known as thiamin, greatly affects your nervous system, blood sugar levels, mood, and the ability to think clearly. People who have difficulty staying on task or controlling their emotions have found great improvement with supplementation, becoming more composed and energetic. One of the most rarely-used forms of thiamin is benfotiamine, but it is the one I recommend. Because of its structure, it absorbs easily in the intestines, and is retained in the body at 5 times the concentration of standard water-soluble thiamin.
B6 as P-5-P (Pyridoxal-5-Phosphate): Vitamin B6 is available in multiple forms, but only one is the bioactive form of vitamin B6 used in the human body – pyridoxal-5-phosphate, or “P-5-P”, which doesn’t require conversion by the liver. It is critical for proper muscle response and exercise recovery, blood pressure and blood sugar regulation, nerve health, and metabolism.
Folic acid as Methylfolate: Like methylcobalamin and P-5-P, methylfolate is an active form that goes to work in the body right away, versus the more common form of folic acid. Folate is critical for everybody, but especially for women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant. Aside from its well-known value in supporting the heart and preventing birth defects, research shows that methylfolate may help people with depression. But everyone can use a better form of folate – deficiencies can lead to irritability, general weakness, mental fogginess, and fatigue.
Again, the right forms of B vitamins make all the difference. Until you experience what truly active B vitamins can do, you may have never realized their benefits.
Amino-acid Chelated Minerals
As with B-vitamins, many people are commonly deficient in minerals because common forms can be difficult for the body to absorb and use efficiently.
For example, if you’re deficient in magnesium, you are more susceptible to stress. Because stress activates the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, your body will release more insulin to break down sugars which are intended to provide more energy for the “crisis.” Your adrenal glands become burned out, too, which creates a spiral of poor response to stress as well. When this happens frequently, you’re on your way to insulin resistance and high blood pressure.
Unfortunately, most supplemental magnesium is poorly bound and difficult for the body to absorb. That leaves people susceptible to metabolic syndrome, muscle weakness, cardiovascular issues, and many other problems. And that’s just one mineral!
Consider zinc. We usually think of this mineral as an immune-booster and healing agent for muscle, skin, and other tissue damage. But did you know that your intake (or lack of) zinc can affect the way your mind works?
Zinc deficiency has been linked to depression and anxiety disorders, so boosting your intake with a truly absorbable form of zinc may be exactly what you need to make your days more even-keeled, productive, and enjoyable.
Imagine how much better you’d feel every day if all of your daily minerals were well absorbed. This is why I recommend chelated minerals that are bound to the amino acid glycine. A chelate is a bond between a mineral and an organic molecule structure, called a ligand that helps the body absorb the mineral during digestion. The amino acid glycine helps shepherd minerals through the intestinal wall, so they can be readily used by the cells of the body.
People are more deficient in vitamin D than they may realize. In northern climates, and among those who have limited mobility and don’t spend much time outdoors, vitamin D deficiencies are common. But there’s more than one form of supplemental vitamin D. For instance, you’ll find vitamin D2, also known as “ergocalciferol”, on some labels. But, vitamin D2 needs to be converted by the body into vitamin D3 – the form it naturally synthesizes – in order to be useful. That can be a real threat to overall health, because vitamin D3 is a daily required nutrient that helps calcium build our bones and teeth, keeps the immune system strong, reduces the effects of inflammation and physical wear and tear in the joints, and protects our brain cells.
Clinical trials show that higher levels of vitamin D3 are associated with improved mental function and ability. Additional research is looking into vitamin D3 levels and its effect on the cognitive skills of those afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease, too. Spare yourself the doubt, and make sure your supplement provides vitamin D3 – the body’s preferred form. Also, make sure it doesn’t skimp on this crucial vitamin. I’d suggest a 1,000 IU level each day.
While vitamin E is a common ingredient in most multivitamin formulations, look for the full family of vitamin E as d-alpha mixed tocopherols – alpha, beta, delta, and gamma. That’s the way they are found in food. This is an essential part of the right multiple.
The full family of vitamin E tocopherols protects us from damaging free radicals, and supports the heart and arteries by preventing the oxidation and build-up of “sticky” cholesterol. Its cellular-protective abilities may extend to keeping nerve cells healthy as well, so vitamin E can be a valuable nutrient for the brain and for anyone concerned with neuropathy. Its immune defending extends well beyond helping ward off a cold or a sniffle: studies in Finland indicate that vitamin E reduced the incidence of prostate cancer and may protect against the cellular “misfires” that lead to lung cancer as well.
Can You Stomach Good Health?
To be sure, many multivitamin and mineral formulas are tough on the stomach. Their forms of B-vitamins can make you feel nauseous, and the very smell of a bottle of vitamins can be enough to turn people off more days than not. Often, this hasn’t been addressed by formulations, but there is a way to naturally avoid the problem. I think that ginger makes one of the most effective botanical ingredients for a number of reasons. It soothes and settles the stomach, and can very effectively reduce the smell and aftertaste common to many multiples.
Twice Daily = Twice as Effective
I understand the desire to take one tablet and be done with it. However, we are designed to acquire nutrients several times a day, which is why our bodies tell us to eat meals more than once per day. Water soluble vitamins are quickly flushed from the body, and you need your vitamin C and the B family as much at 6:00 p.m. as you do at 7:00 a.m. Plus, vitamins are small, but minerals are huge by comparison. You cannot obtain meaningful amounts of minerals in a one-a-day formula. And there are more mineral deficiencies in the U.S. than vitamin deficiencies!
Get the Right Forms of the Right Nutrients
Admittedly, there are a lot of multivitamin and mineral supplements available, but you may not be getting the effective forms of those nutrients or the proper amounts. That’s why I stress how important it is to make sure that your daily formula contains a diverse range of nutrients in the forms that you – and your family – can truly use. If you’ve been used to “window dressing” multiples in the past, getting these ingredients in your regimen will make an amazing difference! I am convinced that anyone consuming the nutrients I suggest for 90 days would experience a new form of energy, vitality, and possibly a reduction of many minor health challenges. Most people look for natural medicinal alternatives but forget that our body only functions on vitamins and minerals, and this should be a way to lay a foundation for good health.
I recommend taking a multivitamin and mineral formula that provides nutrients in their best forms – including active B-vitamins (B1 as benfotiamine, B6 as P-5-P, and folic acid as methylfolate), amino-acid chelated minerals, the full family of vitamin E as d-alpha mixed tocopherols (alpha, beta, delta, and gamma), vitamin D3, and stomach-soothing ginger.