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The Truth About Multivitamins

One-a-day multivitamin? Does that make any sense?

Over 180 million Americans take vitamins every day, yet 9 out of 10 do not get the nutrients they need for optimal health. Why is this? Why is it that some critics say Americans have the most expensive urine in the world? Why? Because many manufacturers make fraudulent claims about their products and the FDA does not regulate this industry. There is so much confusion that most people either have a “more is better attitude” or a “why bother?” The worst are the “one-a-day solves all my nutritional problems” believers. They actually bought into the rhetoric.

Let’s look at some of the facts:

  1. A one-a-day vitamin does not exist. If you believe that one pill per day can give you all the nutrients you needs, you are the victim of a clever marketing campaign. You drank the Kool-aid. The pill would have to be the size of at least a golf ball to give you all those nutrients and your body cannot absorb them in that quantity even if you could swallow it. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a stomach ache waiting to happen each morning!
  2. One-size-fits-all vitamins also do not exist. Research is clear. Gender, age and activity specific multivitamins are essential in assuring building blocks for health. Women need folic acid, calcium, magnesium and iron. Men need saw palmetto and zinc. Age requires more nutrients, and high-activity levels and stress requires more anti-oxidants. Stress? What stress? None of us are stressed…that’s why we run so much!
  3. Taking all your vitamins at once does actually make very expensive urine! Biochemical reactions in your body demonstrate that micronutrients like calcium, magnesium and copper actually slow the absorption rate of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. This means if you put them all together in one pill, your body’s ability to use them decreases. And they end up as waste products. The best vitamins are taken at least twice a day in split doses for better absorption and utilization.
  4. People who exercise absolutely have different requirements than their sedentary neighbors. This is true and is being researched across the world by exercise physiologists. Exercise produces free radicals in your body that shorten the life span of cells and accelerate the aging process! Wait! Isn’t that why we are exercising? To live longer! Free radical oxidation can result in heart disease, arthritis and cancer. This is increased with smoking, air pollution, and increased physical activity. As we age, more free radical accumulate, which increases our risks. Antioxidants like A, B6, C, calcium, magnesium and branched chain amino acids work to counteract the ravages of free radicals resulting from strenuous exercise, and are an absolutely essential part of any multivitamin. The more you exercise, the more anti-oxidants you need! Take a vitamin made for an athlete!
  5. Chelated minerals are dramatically more effective. If your multivitamin does not feature chelated minerals, you are wasting your money and stomach acids. Our bodies have a hard time absorbing some nutrients in their isolated forms, but readily absorb amino acids and fatty acids. Chelated minerals and vitamin (those wrapped with amino acids) are up to 10 times more absorbable.
  6. 100% of the RDA is very misleading. The RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) is the MINIMUM standard for health, not optimal intake. For example, the RDA of fruits and vegetables may ward off scurvy but is certainly not the ideal amount we should get every day. Additionally, remember that even if a multivitamin claims 100% RDA on the label that does not ensure it is in a form that will allow utilization of these nutrients.
  7. Remember above all, the federal government does not protect us from misleading vitamin claims. In fact, if you look at most vitamin packaging it says, “These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.” Make sure you know what is in the bottle. Reputable companies use outside labs to authenticate their product formula so what’s on the bottle is really what’s in the bottle. Research your choice! Don’t just buy the cheapest at the drug store (unless the cheapest meets the criteria, of course).

So what’s the bottom line on multivitamins? Reputable company, good research, authenticated products, sports-specific formulation and different for men and woman is best with multiple doses daily, not just a one-a-day. Peruse the company’s website. Ask the questions. This is your health we are talking about. Don’t spend more time picking out your TV than your multivitamin!

There are a lot of good multi-vitamins out there, but you have to do your homework. I trust the Cooper Clinic in Dallas for my vitamin needs because they fulfill the criteria I set out in this discussion. I trust Dr. Ken Cooper’s lifetime of experience as the father of modern aerobics and his professional integrity in extensive health research. I personally take the Cooper Complete Elite Athlete Vitamin twice a day and I definitely have noticed a difference in my fatigue level when marathon training. I add the Cooper Complete Joint Compound Formula for my glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate supplement, because even though I know (and lots of people keep telling me) there is no true, double-blinded, scientific study that proves it works (If you know of one, please send it to me so I can shut up the naysayers); but I can empirically say that for thousands of runner, glucosamine has helped their joint ache….but that’s a discussion for another day

….Run Happy! And take your vitamins!