T Nation

The (Endless) MultiVitamin Debate


So I've been working at VS for two or three weeks now (woo) and I'm getting the hang of the retail bidniz. Its pretty laid back and I love it and all, but at the end of the day its a cash business and even though we're told over and over we aren't here to force-sell products (and we don't), I definitely notice how we market some things. The biggest focus points in any supplement world is going to be on the multivitamins, the calcium supplements, the joint support supplements, and the fats (fish oil, etc.) Now, I sell so many multivitamins day in and day out I decided to see what was going on. I got a recommendation from a colleague and tried one. Its been roughly three weeks (like 17 days or some crap) and I have to say I feel pretty decent.

Now, I can't attribute anything to the pill because my activity level has just been high due to loads of work - but whats the consensus on multis around here? I know, loads of people just throw their hands up and say "we're all over medicated, you just pee it out, blah blah blah" and I agreed until recently - CVS brand stuff (Centrum, etc) may indeed just be total trash and I very strongly think that may be the case. But, some of our food-derived multis seem like they're less worthless and I'm really curious if all our educated TMen think ALL multis are trash or if they do indeed have a place in a supplemental regimen.

tl;dr your opinion on multis

(For the record, the multi I started is a 3-a-day)


If your diet is lacking in certain vitamins, then yes, a multi-vitamin is for you.


The issue I see to be taken with multis is absorption/bioavailability. Can combining so many different things into a single capsule still allow you a decent absorption level, or do you just melt it down and piss it out?


You can't absorb everything in a multi. Various nutrients compete for receptors, sometimes there isn't a need for a nutrient so it's exrected, others can be pooled or stored.

IMO, if you wanted full effects of vitamins I'd take a multi twice a day with food (at one point I was taking a multi three times a day while low calorie and felt great). Or seperate nutrients and take them at peak absorption times.


"Peak absorption time?"

And yeah, I deff. feel like somethings going on because I'm normally not this energetic while fasting 16 hour days, I think its from the fact the multi is 3x so I have a constant kick of B12 or something.


I have subscribed to a Dr Whitaker's Health & Healing for 17 years, and it has done me an awful lot of good. I listen to a lot of excuses, often in the forms of doubters questions. I take a multi twice a day, 4 x 1000mg of C, 250 Magnesium/potassium 4x, 8 grams of fish oil @ day, plus some specialized things that are OTC special order. Due to an emergency I was wheeled into an emergency room and told I was within 2 hours of being dead. A week later they woke me and said the only reason I lived with 106 degree temperature was from being a life long exerciser and all the supplements vitamins I took. At 106 adult brain cells start to melt into your blood system and overload organs.

I will always have more of the vitamins & minerals in my system than I need. My life style has saved my life at least twice.

I hope the job pays well, you can help a lot of people. Just be careful in what you say to customers. You will sell more help to them in asking questions than telling them too much.

Good luck to you.


I'm glad to say the job pays more than well enough given the experience I'm getting while working. DSHEA specifies I can't make claims about what products can do but I can make structure/function claims, so I'm never selling anything by lying and I make no commission so I feel no pressure to sell shit. Whats annoying is people who "heard bad things" about companies and randomly refuse to use them "Oh, I heard Solgar puts fillers in their B-50 caps, and I read something about Schiff too..."

Like, what?


peak absorption time probably isn't the best way to describe it. I may take vitamin D with food to help absorption. Magnesium at night seperate from calcium. B Vitamins with a meal around activity, etc. I try to take them at times I think they will be best be utilized.


Why do you separate your Magnesium and Calcium? It was my understanding that Magnesium facilitates calcium absorption.


Supposedly calcium and magnesium compete for the same receptor sites in the body, thus leading to one canceling the other out.

However, after doing an admittedly short search about this subject, it seems most scientific research agrees that supplementing one will NOT dramatically affect the other's absorption rate. Like I said before, I did just a very quick search on the subject... anyone who has information contrary to what I just said feel free to correct me.


If you learned this from Dr. Whitiker I would start questioning more of the so called facts he pawns off.

Your brain cells do not melt. People die from high temperatures because most enzymes, crucial to basic body functioning only operate in a certain temperature range. When this range is exceeded their operation becomes degraded. These same enzymes are what keeps bacteria alive and allow the operation of viruses.

So when your body decides to go into high temperature zones it is an attempt to weaken or kill off the infecting agent. This works most of the time unless your body is too hot for too long and it's ability to control it's temperature is lost (because the enzymes that control basic metabolic functions of your temperature controlling facilities have been inhibited) - at that point your temperature can sky rocket and thus the heat so inhibits the proper operation of basic enzyme activity that you die.


If you want to have something fact-based with which to guide customers, you can explain that:

1) While some important vitamin compounds are inexpensive materials and so therefore even the cheapest brands can include them, others are expensive and so cheap brands will make inferior substitutions or will lack particular forms of vitamins.

A principal example is Vitamin E.

The cheapest form is dl-alpha. This is a mixture of isomers, one of which doesn't occur in nature. Recent studies showing no value to Vitamin E with regard to certain cancers or even negative effect obtained these results by using this inferior form of Vitamin E, or the next form.

The next step us is d-alpha, only.

Problem with this is that natural Vitamin E also includes other forms such as gamma. Too much alpha results in competition in the body with natural gamma derived from the diet and can thus be counterproductive.

Top line is Vitamin E which is principally the gamma form, and which has no dl in it.

A cheaply made brand is not going to use this, because the manufacturer cannot afford it for the price point they are aiming for.

So this is a very valid example you can use to show quality differences between brands.

That isn't to say that all brands that go the same way with regard to Vitamin E are identical in overall quality, but you can at least see what overall tier they belong to with regard to how they handle Vitamin E. I suppose there could be exceptions where Vitamin E is done well but the rest of the formulation is really bad, or vice-versa, but I think that would be unusual and I haven't noticed an example of that.

2) Some vitamins are better absorbed in oil-based forms and others are water soluble, so all-in-one formulations aren't the best way to go, though they are cheaper.

3) Some minerals have too much bulk to be incorporated into a multivitamin/multimineral so a good formulation will not try to pack them in there. These particularly include calcium and magnesium.

4) In some cases a quality product will deliberately not include certain minerals so that the user can tailor his use. So for example, zinc might not be included because the intention is for the user to obtain his zinc from a product different than the multivitamin/multimineral.

In summary: keeping cost down and convenience high (fewer product forms and fewer total capsules/tablets being more convenient) results in compromise.

Not every customer is going to be looking for the best way regardless that it's more expensive and less convenient; and also not every customer is looking for the cheapest and most maximally convenient.


This is exactly what I was looking for. Any other vitamins/minerals that have a sort of "hierarchy" to their quality? I never knew about the forms of Vit E...


Vitamin K also, but only at the high end -- and even then not usually -- or in a separate product will this be done well.

As for minerals, chelation is important for many of them. But I wouldn't know how to describe, or rather it would be a project to come up with a good writeup, how one can look at a label and decide the quality.

Vitamin E and the above considerations mentioned give a good quick guide that at least gives a ballpark idea of where a product sits.

Or for quickly spotting bad: If Vitamin A is supplied as retinol, then the company doesn't know what they are doing. These days almost every company seems to know better but there are still some products out there that use retinol.

(The reason for avoiding retinol is that research finds supplementation with retinol, alone among all vitamins sold, to correlate with reduced life expectancy. It just doesn't have to be done. Beta carotene is the safer source.)

Another warning sign of ignorance is iron. Men generally should not supplement with iron, so it shouldn't be casually thrown into a product intended to include male users.

This actually is something to watch out for with MRP's as well. There was an otherwise-good product that at least a few years back -- I don't know about now -- actually contained 50% of the RDA of iron in every serving, which was just dumb and was good reason to not use the product.

Excess iron is a pro-oxidant aggravating cardiovascular risk in men.


Yeah, I made sure to get my multi as no-iron. When people ask I typically advise against it unless they're a teenage skinnygirl or know they are anemic.

I understand chealation as the process of adding aminos (I think?) to minerals to increase their absorption. That wrong?


This is an interesting site on different compounds with the science relating to each:


I believe the maintainers accept any additional studies that readers may provide.


That usually is how it is done but it doesn't have to be an amino acid.

To explain: Some atoms readily tend to carry a charge. For example, calcium and magnesium tend to carry a double positive charge.

This is fine in water solution but as an isolated compound, for example in a tablet or capsule, it must be neutral. So this can be achieved by being either bound, whether very tightly or less so, to something with an opposite charge.

Amino acids can be suitable for this but also sometimes substances such as succinate, citrate, or malate will be used.

Being chelated instead of, for example, in a carbonate or oxide form can make a big difference to bioavailability.

Chelation is a variety of ionic bonding, which is not so tight as covalent bonding, and it is much more suitable for many minerals.


Bill, question. If you are taking a multi-vit that has vit E in it in the form of d-alpha at 1000% daily value, would it be worth it to buy some vit E in gamma form, or would it be a waste of money due to the competition for receptors?

The multi-vit in question is Advanced Health Formula. I should note that this is the cheap version. The company has a higher quality version that contains not only more vit/minerals, but also all of its E is gamma. But it is almost 3x the price as the cheap version and I'm on a very fixed budget haha


On the contrary with regard to receptor competition: taking alpha increases the need for gamma.

If the budget is tight and particularly if you are younger I wouldn't worry about it too much. I expect (it's not proven) that over a long period of time there will be a health benefit that would be worth the cost, but it's not as if going a few years without the gamma-tocopherol supplementation while younger and short on money is going to either be noticeable now or necessarily set you back later.

But long term, would I go decades that way? I'd rather not.


This discussion is great, Bill I've got a question. How important is it to take vitamins/minerals with aminos chelated or not; if a vitamin/mineral was not chelated would the added aminos increase absorption?