Most of us know that it is not realistic to believe that, with our busy lives, we can still manage to eat all the foods that give us every kind of vitamin and mineral that our bodies need. So, what do we do? We look for vitamins that will supplement what we think we need in our diets and are not able to get enough of from the foods that we eat.
The problem with taking vitamins is that it can be a challenge to find brands that are as good as they boast, rather than the mass-produced multivitamins that actually don’t have much to offer.
What scientific literature can tell us about vitamins
When you go to the National Library of Medicine, which contains over 22 million medical articles often spanning back 60 years, you realize it’s difficult to take a strong opinion on which vitamins are truly the best.
Are there legitimate concerns about the type and source of supplement you take? Absolutely. One example is a 2012 study of 121 natural health products evaluated independently for toxins like mercury, lead, cadmium and arsenic. Not exactly ingredients you find on the bottle label.
Turns out that roughly 75% of products sampled had these toxins at detectable levels. (The silver lining, if we can call it that, is that fewer than 10% of them had levels that were deemed highly unsafe. Sort of reassuring.) The worst offenders were supplements produced in China.
Another example is the overwhelming predominance of multivitamins to have only one form of Vitamin E, from a synthetic source. (There are actually 8 types of Vitamin E in nature, found in seeds, nuts, greens and avocados.) The risk of prostate cancer is actually higher if you take racemic alpha-tocopherol acetate, a version of Vitamin E that is found in many inexpensive preparations. I would never permit this form of Vitamin E in my body! A better choice is a supplement with mixed Vitamin E preparations, including tocopherols and tocotrienols from natural sources like annattto, rice or palm oils.