With so many different companies making claims about their vitamin being the best, it can be incredibly difficult to discern what is true, what is important, and what is right for you. In no way is this a guaranteed guide to the best multivitamin, but the goal is to help you understand the differences in the types of multivitamins in order to make you a more informed consumer, and allow you to make the best choice for yourself.
Key Ingredient Differences
Like most things, multivitamin supplements are only as good as the sum of their parts. So many large companies are out there marketing their vitamins on every T.V. channel and in every magazine they can. By doing that, it makes people think "Maybe I could be healthier by taking a multivitamin!" While this is absolutely true, most of those companies don't use good ingredients, and your body can't absorb them. This limited absorption reduces the actual effectiveness of the vitamin. Some of those companies advertising their multivitamins, are also some of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, and may be more concerned with making money on the product than the results of that product. The easiest way to determine the quality of a multivitamin is to look at a few key ingredients.
- Cacium Carbonate is the cheapest form of calcium and is also has lowest bio-availability in the body.
- Calcium Citrate is slightly more expensive, but has almost twice the bio-availability as carbonate.
- Magnesium Oxide is one of the most common forms of supplemental magnesium, showing a high elemental concentration, but very poor bio-availability (around 4%).
- Magnesium Citrate has one of the best bio-availability ratings (90%), so even though it is a lower concentration than oxide there is much greater absorption.
- Magnesium Malate, Glycinate, or Taurate, are chelated forms of magnesium and have the highest level of absorption in the body.
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin E is most commonly used in the Alpha-Tocopherol form. With that form there are still two different types, D-Alpha and L-Alpha. D-Alpha is naturally forming, while L-Alpha is synthetically made. Many popular multivitamin brands us a DL-Alpha Tocopherol. Meaning they add the less effective, less expensive version to save costs while still being able to claim a good source of vitamin E.
- B Vitamins
- There is a very simple way to determine the quality of the B vitamins used in a supplement. Focusing on the for of B12 will let you know if it is a higher quality supplement or if it uses cheaper ingredients.
- Methylcobalamin is a higher quality form of B12, and is more easily utilized by the body. Cyanocobalamin is a cheaper form, and cannot be absorbed into the body as effectively.
- Fillers and Dyes
- Many highly advertised multivitamins include filler ingredients that possess no actual benefit when being supplemented. These include metals such as copper and nickle. They are included as fillers because they are cheap and to a consumer that is not completely aware of everything on the label (which is difficult when there are so many things on the label) they look like they might be beneficial to have included in a multivitamin.
- It is also common for them to include artificial dyes in cheap multivitamins. This makes the product more "visually appealing", but many of these dyes are believed to be harmful. So why would you want extra ingredients that may be detrimental to the health you are trying to achieve by taking a multivitamin.
Cost vs. Quality
Many of the ingredients in a multivitamin supplement are chosen for cost reasons. Higher quality ingredients will inherently cost more, and for a company to make a product they must be able to make money on it. While many factors go into the retail price of a product, the biggest factor is the cost of the goods themselves. Some companies may be able to market their vitamin at $19.99 a bottle, while other companies cannot even produce their vitamin for that price! Under no circumstances does a high retail price tag guarantee a high quality product, but a cheap price almost always comes with cheap ingredients. Add to that equation that many of the companies selling cheap multivitamins are spending MILLIONS on advertising.
How can these companies be making enough money to fit that marketing budget, selling at those low prices, if they are spending money on creating a high quality product?
One of the questions we get most often about multivitamins is "what is the difference between the one a day version and the regular?" To put it simply, the one a day will have a little less of each ingredient than a full serving of the regular vitamin. The proper choice is the one that is most realistic for you. If you are only going to remember to take, or only want to take 1 in the morning and be done, the one daily will be a better option, because it will usually have a higher dose of important ingredients than 1 tablet from a 3 tablet serving. If you are able to take a few tablets throughout the day, you will get the most benefit from a regular multiple. It truly comes down to what best fits your life!
Truthfully every multivitamin is going to be different, but that's okay because no two people have the exact same needs. When your life is deficient in certain core nutrients, either from genetic predisposition, lack of certain dietary intakes, heightened activity level, or an illness, taking a good multivitamin can help provide your body what it needs to keep you operating at peak efficiency. Hopefully this will allow you to make an educated choice about the multivitamin you use, so that you take what will work best for YOU.