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How to Choose a Multivitamin

Updated on November 28, 2014

Doctors tell us that we need multi-vitamins. With all the different types of multi-vitamins out there, how can one choose which one to buy?

In this article, I will present tidbits of information that was gleaned from books and other sources to help you chose the right multi-vitamin.

In his book "Natural Health, Natural Medicine", Dr. Weil has a section on vitamins and supplements which he writes ...

"shopping for these products has become more complicated. You must do some homework and read labels to make sure they provide the doses and forms of vitamins you need." [page 234]

Dr. Oz in a YouTube video says that he takes an multivitamin with at least the five letters A, B, C, D, and E.

So let's start with vitamin A. Dr. Weil writes in his book ...

"Vitamin A toxicity is a real problem, however, so much so that I discourage you from taking it. Instead, give your body the much safer precursor, beta-carotene, which is water-solube, and let it make vitamin A from it as it needs." [page 239]

Dr. Weil also mentions same in a Today show video to get A in the form of beta-carotene instead of retinal. Let the body make its vitamin a from beta-carotene.

In the video, Dr. Weil says to look for natural vitamin E with all four natural tocopherol (alpha, beta, gamma, and delta). Look for "mixed natural tocopherol". If you see "dl" as in dl-alpha tocopherol, that is the synthetic form and is not as good since the body can only use half of that. Read more about Vitamin E Supplements here.

Dr. Weil mentions that everyone above the age of 5 should be taking vitamins. Other doctors also recommend taking vitamins as mentioned here.

Make sure the multivitamin as good amounts of vitamin D (in the form of D3). Read about the importance of vitamin D here.

For the B vitamins, make sure it has B6, B12, and folic acid (folic acid is the synthetic form of natural folate found in food). They play a role in the methylation process and beneficial to brain health.

Get a multi-vitamin with magnesium in it. Many people are deficient in this mineral and don't even know it. Read about the importance of magnesium here.

Dr. Mark Hyman says ...

"The most absorbable forms are magnesium citrate, glycinate taurate, or aspartate, although magnesium bound to Kreb cycle chelates (malate, succinate, fumarate) are also good. Avoid magnesium carbonate, sulfate, gluconate, and oxide. They are poorly absorbed (and the cheapest and most common forms found in supplements)." [reference]

Chromium helps balance blood sugar.

Other minerals that you might want to look for are zinc. As mentioned in the book The Ultramind Solution (shown above) by Dr. Hyman, zinc plays an important role in immunity and helps control inflammation. It also helps eliminate heavy metal toxins such as mercury from the body. It does this by helping the enzyme metallothionein do its work.

What You Don't Need Too Much in a Multi-Vitamin

Zinc boosts immunity in moderate doses. However, excessive amount will adversely affect immunity. Do not take more than 100 milligram of zinc in supplement form per day.

Similarly selenium is another trace mineral that we need, but not too much. In Dr. Weil's book, 8 Weeks to Optimum Health, he writes ...

"Selenium can be toxic in high doses. Don't take more than 300 micrograms a day. The first signs of overdose are easily noticeable: obvious peeling of fingernails and skin, and loss of hair." [page 102] says "Selenium is LIKELY SAFE for most people when taken by mouth in doses less than 400 mcg per day, short-term." But that "Higher doses are POSSIBLY UNSAFE." and "There is concern that taking selenium for a long time might not be safe."

No iron please

Iron is something you do not want to see in an multi-vitamin. While iron is needed in trace amounts, too much iron accumulates and causes oxidation. The body has no way of eliminating excess iron except through blood loss.

Avoid getting any multi-vitamin, vitamin, or supplement with iron in it (unless specifically prescribed by a physician that has done tests that documented your iron deficiency).

In The Great Cholesterol Myth, both authors are ...

"adamant that no one but premenopausal women should ever take vitamins with iron, or supplemental iron of any kind, unless prescribed by a doctor." [page 173]

You also most likely do need sodium in a multi-vitamin. Many people eat too much salt in their foods already. If you are sodium deficient, just salt your food with sea salt (not table salt).

Men should not take calcium supplements. For women, it is debatable. But if you do take calcium supplements, make sure to take vitamin K2 with it. See the problem with calcium.

What Can Not Fit in a Multi-Vitamin

Omega-3 is an important supplement. But no one has figured out how to put omega-3 into the same pill with a multi-vitamin yet. So you just have to take omega-3 as a separate pill.  Dr. Oz mentions this in his YouTube video here.  Doctor Oz also mentions that many manufactures of multi-vitamin do not put enough vitamin D in it.  And if that is the case (must read the label), one may need to take an additional vitamin D pill in addition to the multi-vitamin giving a combined total of at least 1000 IU and up to 2000 IU. However, if you are taking Dr. Weil's Daily Multivitamin, then you do not need to take additional vitamin D supplements because Weil multi-vitamin already has a large dose of 2000 IU of vitamin D in it.

Other supplements that you might want to consider taking separately are Co-Q10 and alpha-lopic acid.

What more do you want in a multi-vitamin?

Understandably different individuals may have different needs. Any one particular multivitamin may not satisfies the particular need of everyone.

For that reason, some people alternate between two multivitamins -- taking one pill one day and another type of multivitamin pill the next day.

Although larger bottles with large number of pills may be more economical, buying smaller bottles may keep your pills fresher due to the freshness seal on the bottle. Your multi-vitamin bottle should have a freshness seal and it should also have an expiration date (which you should check).

Contra Indications

Not all vitamins are suitable for all individuals. Some vitamins may have interactions with medications or other physical conditions. Consult with your doctor (especially if you are pregnant) for your individual case before taking vitamins and supplements.

For example, on page 236 of Natural Health, Natural Medicine, Dr. Weil warns ...

"Do not take high doses of niacin if you are pregnant or if you have ulcers, gout, diabetes, gallbladder disease, liver disease, or have had a recent heart attack."

The Weil Daily Multi-vitamin has 50 mg of niacin (as niacinamide), which is at 250% DV.

People with Graves disease or thyroid conditions or taking thyroid medications need to be careful with iodine and need to check with their doctor about it first.

Watch out for certain fillers

When buying a multivitamin, read the label for "other ingredients". You don't want any with harmful fillers like hydrogenated oils or titanium dioxide. You also don't want any that contain gluten, wheat, dairy, corn, etc that you may be sensitive to.

Read my other article on which fillers to avoid.

Some Examples

A few multivitamins that book The Mood Cure mentions are

  • True Balance Multiple by NOW Foods
  • My Favorite Multiple Original Formula by Natrol
  • Allergy Multi byTwinLabs

Some people may not want the iron that is in Allergy Multi. Other may not want the calcium in the My Favorite Multiple (pick the one without iron). The True Balance one has only a tiny bit (9% DV) of calcium. So that may be okay especially if you take it with vitamin K2.


Article was updated March 2013 and is opinion at the time of writing. Author of this article is not a medical profession and may receive revenue from display ads and links within article.


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