How to choose a Multivitamin

December 17, 2010 • Healthy Living

Many people approach a naturopath for help sifting through the vast amounts of nutritional supplements at the health food store. These are some basic things to look for in a multiple vitamin and mineral formula and why.

When choosing a multi vitamin there are several nutrients that I look for that apply to the general population. The following are assuming that this is a multi vitamin that has a basic array of nutrients. It also assumes that the person is looking for something to support their body through the basics of day-to-day living. Therapeutic levels of certain nutrients will support the body through different pathologies will not be addressed here but can be recommended by your naturopathic physician. I find that if the following nutrients are in good levels, the rest the vitamins and minerals are often in decent amounts.

B vitamins. The first thing I check for is that it has high B vitamins. This means most of the B vitamins are at the 50–100mg range. The exception to this is folic acid and B12 which are given in mcg amounts. Usually if the other B vitamins are at good levels, they will be also. B complex vitamins are important in generating energy, they make the cells lest vulnerable to stress and they are important in moderation of mood. B vitamins also support the liver in it role in detoxification of hormones and in general processing of the extra "stuff" that we are exposed to as we go through our day.

Selenium. This important nutrient supports the liver through its role in glutathione production (glutathione is needed in the detoxification reactions that happen in the liver) and enhances immune function by improvements in T cell function (these are the cells vital to combating viruses that enter our system). An effective daily amount of selenium is 200mcg.

Chromium. This mineral is increasingly relevant given our rate of consumption of refined sugars and the increasing incidence of diabetes in North America. Around 100–200mcg of chromium in a multi is a sufficient daily amount to help our cells utilize glucose efficiently. Those with known blood sugar regulation problems should seek additional support from their naturopathic physician who may recommend higher levels of this mineral and/or other natural supportive measures.

Iron. This should be present for women who are menstruating or for those individuals with known iron deficiency anemia. Due to its potential toxicity, I do not recommend it for everyone. If you suspect you are iron deficient, your MD or ND can check your ferritin levels which tells us what your iron stores are like. There are many great multi vitamins specifically for post-menopausal women and men that do not contain iron.

Zinc is important for both genders but be sure that your multi also contains copper. Excessive zinc supplementation can result in a copper deficiency.

A note about children's vitamins: please watch out for vitamins with sugar and extra added artificial colors and flavors. Sugar decreases immune function, and not only are many children sensitive to the added artificial colors and flavors, it is additional work for their body to process and eliminate these chemicals. We are exposed to so many chemicals throughout our lifetime, so please eliminate ones from this source.