Are All Supplements Created Equal?
Have you ever gone to one of those huge vitamin shops or health food stores? You may have been overwhelmed with the large number of choices of products. Why would a store need to carry 10 or more different kinds of multivitamins and minerals? How do you go about choosing the formulation that is right for you?
First, its important to know that everyone benefits from taking a multivitamin and multimineral supplement. The Journal of the American Medical Association published specific guidelines regarding the importance of vitamins for chronic disease prevention in 2002 concluding that all adults should take one multivitamin daily. They went on to add that elderly Americans might want to take two multivitamins daily due to the prevalence of inadequate intake of Vitamins B12 and D.
Its hard to imagine that Americans might have inadequate intakes of important vitamins and minerals, but its true and its directly attributable to our poor diets loaded with highly processed foods. According to recent NHANES data, more than 50% of Americans dont get the recommended amount of potassium, calcium, vitamin E, vitamin K, magnesium or fiber needed to meet even minimum requirements.
You may have read in the popular literature that it doesnt matter what brand of vitamin you buy. Having done research on bioavailability, I totally disagree with that statement. Several of the most popular brands of vitamins have been evaluated and the results have been published in peer-reviewed journals. As an example, Navarro et al (JACN, 2003 (22) 124-132) reported on changes in micronutrient status after patients consumed Centrum (from vitamin A to zinc) and found apparently low bioavailability of zinc and copper in that product as evidenced by decreased absorption. This is likely due to the form of the mineral used in that particular vitamin formulation.
In general, pills and tablets might be expected to provide some challenges with absorption since the pills must disintegrate prior to the release of vitamins and minerals into the stomach and subsequently the gastrointestinal tract where absorption occurs. Someone with inadequate stomach acidity can get that awful bloated feeling when they take a multivitamin or calcium tablet because the pill often remains in their stomach until they eat some food and enough stomach acid is released to break down the pill.
An alternative delivery system includes the use of isotonic formulations. Typically these products are powders which are mixed with water and drunk on an empty stomach. The fluid has the same osmotic pressure as your bodily fluids so it passes into the stomach and the pyloric valve opens quickly and the vitamins and minerals move into the small intestine where they are absorbed.
An isotonic formulation can provide 90+% absorption in as little as 15 minutes (while tablets and pills with binders and fillers typically provide 40-50% absorption over 30 minutes to four hours). You wont find isotonic formulations at your local drugstore or warehouse superstore. You need to consult a health practitioner who offers high quality isotonic nutraceutical products and they can help you determine what products are right for you. Be healthy!