What would be the best multivitamin for me?

“I haven’t taken vitamins since my last pregnancy in 1994. I am a 53 year old woman in good health. The only medication I take Is synthroid for hypothyroidism. What would be the best multivitamin for me? And what other supplements do you recommend? I recently started listening to your radio show. I love it but I am not sure where to start? Thanks in advance for your help.”

I haven’t taken vitamins since my last pregnancy in 1994. I am a 53 year old woman in good health. The only medication I take Is synthroid for hypothyroidism. What would be the best multivitamin for me? And what other supplements do you recommend? I recently started listening to your radio show. I love it but I am not sure where to start? Thanks in advance for your help.

Yes, the number of choices can be overwhelming. But let’s see if we can simplify it for you and others who may share your concern. We will start by pointing out that you are in “good health” except for the hypothyroidism.

I will also point out that when it comes to the choice of your basic multivitamin, multi mineral and possible other “base” supplements, the choices are often the same, regardless of whether or not you have other health problems. The reason for this is that my approach is to establish a “nucleus” or base supplement regimen, and then add to it, as necessary, to address any specific health problems you may have. No health problems? No additional supplements necessary.

In your case, due to your age, you do not need a high level of iron in your supplement. So I would look for a product that contains no more than the recommended daily value (18 mg) at most.

I will also make the assumption that your reason for taking a multi is along the lines of “insure adequate or optimal intake of all the essential nutrients.” You want to grow old, and you want to remain relatively healthy while doing so.

And, finally, I have to assume that your diet is “average.” Good but not great. If you are a vegetarian, don’t eat dairy, eat a lot of dairy and red meat, never eat vegetables and fruit, etc, your needs will be different.

So we arrive at the following conclusion. You need a basic, balanced multivitamin supplement. You need supplemental calcium and magnesium and, perhaps, extra vitamin D. You will probably benefit from two additional supplements: an omega-3 fish oil supplement, and a phyto antioxidant blend.

The most difficult choice is the first one, the multivitamin. The reason for this is that there are many options: form, dose, green, all-in-one. Let’s look at each option.

Form. You can get multivitamins in capsule, tablets, powder and liquids. If you cannot swallow tablet and capsules, you might prefer the convenience of powders and liquids. With powders and liquids, however, you have greater stability concerns, flavor (taste) considerations, and liquids are usually lower potency. Some people find it easier to swallow a capsule than a tablet, but tablets are usually less expensive and contain the highest dose. The same daily dose, for example, that you get in six capsules will fit into four tablets. You will see a variety of other marketing claims touting one form over another, but a properly formulated, properly manufactured tablet will work just fine.

Dose. You can get a one-a-day multi. You can get two-a-day, three-a-day, four-a-day, and even six-a-day multivitamin supplements. What is the difference? One obvious difference is that the more you take, the greater the amount (and perhaps variety) of nutrients you will get. It is easy to fit all of the vitamins and trace minerals into one or two tablets or capsules. But calcium and magnesium are required in higher quantities, and these will not fit into a one or two per day multi. I will discuss this further in a moment, under the “all-in-one” heading. The one thing I strongly urge you not to do is choose a one-per-day multi. Here is the reason. Most of the vitamins and trace minerals in a one-per-day multi are water soluble. They will be absorbed relatively easily and quickly and reach peak blood levels within an hour or so. Then, they begin to be excreted, and whatever does not get absorbed into the tissues during that time finds its way into the toilet bowl. In other words, after half the day, you no longer are getting any benefit from the multi. If you divide your daily dose into at least a twice per day dosages, you are now getting roughly double the benefit! I suggest a minimum of two-per-day, one with breakfast and one with dinner.

Green. Many multivitamin supplements are now being marketed as “food grown,” “food based,” and similar terms. This is nice. Nothing beats food as a source of your essential vitamins and minerals, and including as much food concentrate in the multi as possible is no doubt a good thing. Just we warned that the more food concentrates you include, the less room you have left for the actual vitamins and minerals themselves. So the good news is that this type of multi contains a lot of healthy food-derived cofactors, etc but the bad news is that they are usually lower in potency. To get potencies similar to the “non-green” multi preparations, you many need to take a larger number of tablets or capsules. This is fine if you are willing to do so.

All-In-One. As I said earlier, you cannot obtain the full daily dose of calcium and/or magnesium in a one or two per day multivitamin supplement. There is just not enough room. And it makes no sense to me to take several hundred percent of the U.S. Daily Value of the B-vitamins, while only taking 20% of the Daily Value of calcium and magnesium. So you have two choices. You can take a separate calcium-magnesium supplement, with a dose of two or more per day depending on the type and quality, or you can take a multivitamin supplement that includes the full dose of calcium and magnesium all in the one product. Of course, the daily dose of this “all-in-one” multi has to be higher, to accommodate these added ingredients–usually four tablets daily or six capsules daily.

The total number of tablets, whether you take a separate multi and a separate calcium-magnesium may end up being the same, but many people prefer the convenience of the all-in-one type of product.

So you can narrow down your choice by making four choices as defined above: What form do you prefer? How many are you willing to take each day? Do you want a straight multivitamin multi mineral supplement, or one that includes food concentrates? And do you want everything in one product, or a separate multivitamin and a separate calcium-magnesium?

If you call Willner Chemists (800 633 1106) pre-armed with this information, or stop by one of the Willner Chemists stores in Manhattan or Atlanta, one of the pharmacists or nutritionists will easily and quickly provide you with appropriate options. I am not going to mention specific products here, as we carry numerous quality brands at Willner Chemists. The recommendations might vary from one time to another depending on several factors including which brands might be on sale at the time.

I will provide an example of the “all-in-one” multivitamin multi mineral that is under the Willner Chemists brand. It is called “Willvite,” and the four per day dose provides everything, including calcium and magnesium, in the proper balance and potency.

There are, of course, other supplements that relatively healthy adults might want to take in addition to a multivitamin, calcium and magnesium. I would suggest the following three supplements should be part of most general regimens:

(1) An omega-3 fish oil supplement. The type chosen depends on your diet and health. If you have heart disease, inflammatory conditions, etc, I suggest a high potency EPA/DHA concentrate. If you are healthy, or if you do not eat fish, a “whole” fish oil concentrate might be appropriate.

(2) Vitamin D. At this time, the consensus of opinion is that most of us do not get enough vitamin D. And vitamin D is being increasingly targets as important in the prevention of many serious health problems. Most multivitamins do not contain more than 400 IU of vitamin D, so additional vitamin D is indicated. Many experts consider 800 to 1,000 IU per day as the new “minimum” dose. You can get vitamin D as a stand alone supplement, or you can get omega-3 fish oil supplements with added vitamin D. Natural Factors and Nordic Naturals are two brands that have that combination.

(3) Phyto Antioxidants. Increased antioxidants appear to be beneficial in numerous health conditions, from macular degeneration to aging. Most multivitamin supplements provide the standard vitamin and mineral antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc and selenium. But many of the powerful antioxidants are those found in plants–the flavonoids and polyphenols found in grape skin, green tea, berries, fruits and vegetables. “Phyto” refers to plants, and a “phyto-antioxidant” supplement is a perfect complement to the regular multivitamin supplement. I recommend the Willner Chemists Phyto-Tech “Antiox Phyto Complex” (liquid filled capsule) or “Antiox Phyto Blend” (dropper bottle liquid).

On the one hand, I have provided a recommendation of what you might call a basic, or “nucleus” nutritional supplement regimen, suitable for almost everyone. A multivitamin, calcium-magnesium (either separate or included in the multivitamin), omega-3 oils, extra vitamin D, and extra “phyto” antioxidants. On the other hand, everyone is different, and everyone has unique needs. The challenge of decided on a multivitamin pales when compared to getting qualified and factual guidance on the remainder of your supplement requirements tailored to your unique health, diet and medical needs. You will not find this guidance in health food stores. You will not find it from your multilevel marketing salesman. You will find it at Willner Chemists.

Don Goldberg, R.Ph.

About Don Goldberg

Hello. I am what you might call a Nutritional Pharmacist. After college, I worked in the Pharmaceutical and Nutritional Industry, first in Quality Control, and then in Manufacturing and Product Development. Increasingly, as the years passed, I became more involved with nutritional supplements. I spent many years detailing physicians, herbalists, and homeopaths about nutritional and herbal therapies and products. In 1992, along with my friend Arnie Gitomer, I bought Willner Chemists, a well-established nutritionally oriented pharmacy. For the first time, I had an opportunity to communicate directly with the consumer, the patient, and the customer. I love it. This blog is an additional way for me to extend my personal views and opinions directly to you. You can also hear me on the radio, every Sunday, from 2 to 4 pm on WOR radio in NY (710 AM), or WGKA in Atlanta (920 AM). Or check our website, www.willner.com.
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