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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

3 reasons why most multivitamins don’t work and what to do about it

Posted on March 24, 2014 by Natalia Lukina

In the recent months there had been a flood of articles claiming that multivitamins are not effective. Two recent research studies showed no positive effect from taking multivitamins for brain health and for prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer (see references [1,2] below).


So should you stop taking multivitamins? And is there a need for supplemental vitamins and minerals to begin with?

Surprisingly, the answer is Yes to both questions.

Nowadays, most people are unable to obtain all the vitamins and minerals that their bodies need from diets alone. There are two main reasons. First, the food is often grown in mineral-depleted soils and does not have rich nutritional content. Second, most of us do not have enough time to plan and cook balanced and nutritionally diverse diets.  In fact, according to research done by Dr. Misner, only about 10% of Americans get sufficient quantity of all the essential micronutrients from their diets [3]. Thus, 90% of Americans do need supplemental vitamins and minerals to avoid developing nutritional deficiencies and stay healthy. However, taking all-in-one multivitamins is not a solution.


Why all-in-one multivitamins do not work?

There are three scientifically established reasons that explain why all-in-one multivitamins are so ineffective.

Reason #1

Some vitamins and minerals inhibit absorption of each other up to 5-fold when taken together. Scientists have discovered negative interactions and significant decrease in absorption in the following micronutrient pairs: calcium and iron [4], manganese and iron [5], calcium and zinc [6], and several others. All-in-one multivitamins do not take into account these interactions and mix all vitamins and minerals into one pill. As a result their absorption is poor.

Reason #2

Fat-soluble vitamins (A, E, D, K), carotenoids, coenzyme Q10 and some other micronutrients need presence of fat to be absorbed well [7,8]. All-in-one multivitamins do not include fat. If they are taken on an empty stomach or with food that does not contain fat, fat soluble ingredients will be minimally absorbed.

Reason #3

Some vitamins and minerals have energizing effect on the body, while others have relaxing effect on the body. For example, vitamin B12 and coenzyme Q10 have energizing effect on the body [9,10]. Minerals calcium and magnesium have a relaxing effect [11]. It is best to take energizing micronutrients during the first half of the day and relaxing micronutrients at night. All-in-one multivitamins put all vitamins and minerals together without regard for their action on the body. Thus many people do not feel any immediate effect from taking multivitamins.


If all-in-one multivitamins do not work, how can people obtain additional vitamins and minerals that their bodies need?

In order for supplemental vitamins and minerals to absorb well, they need to be taken in correct combinations and at the right times of the day. Below are guidelines from nutritional scientists for specific vitamins and minerals:

Best taken during the first half of the day:  B1, B12, vitamin C, antioxidants, iron, CoQ-10

Best taken in the evening: calcium, magnesium, potassium

Best not taken together: iron and calcium, copper and zinc, zinc and iron, zinc and calcium, coffee/tea and iron/calcium

Best taken with fat-containing meal or together with fish oil: vitamins A, D, E, K, carotenoids (beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, astaxanthin), CoQ-10.

Scientists at Vital Formulas have spent several years studying and analyzing interactions between micronutrients. They came to the conclusion that there is a definite need to change the way multivitamins are taken. This has led to creation of Balanced Trio  nutrient complex. Balanced Trio is the only product on the market that group vitamins and minerals by synergy and according to the time of day taken. Balanced Trio also includes fat in the form of omega-3 fish oil with a serving of fat-soluble micronutrients.

When it comes to vitamins and minerals, the key is not just what you take, but what your body absorbs.


[1] Long-term multivitamin supplementation and cognitive function in men: a randomized trial. Grodstein F. et al. Ann Intern Med. 2013 Dec 17;159(12):806-14.

[2] Vitamin, Mineral, and Multivitamin Supplements for the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease and Cancer: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement. Moyer VA. Ann Intern Med. 2014 Feb 25. doi: 10.7326/M14-0198.

[3] Food alone may not provide sufficient micronutrients for preventing deficiency. Bill Misner. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2006; 3(1): 51–55.

[4] Calcium supplementation: effect on iron absorption. Cook J.D., et al. Am J Clin Nutr. 1991; 53: 106–11.

[5] Competitive inhibition of iron absorption by manganese and zinc in humans. Rossander-Hulten L., et al. Am J of Clin Nutr. 1991; 54: 152–6.

[6] High dietary calcium intakes reduce zinc absorption and balance in humans. Am J Clin Nutr. 1997 Jun;65(6):1803-9.

[7] Influence of dietary fat on beta-carotene absorption and bioconversion into vitamin A. Ribaya-Mercado JD. Nutr Rev. 2002 Apr;60(4):104-10.

[8] Vitamin D fact sheet for consumers. National Institute of Health. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-QuickFacts

[9] Vitamin B12 (cobalamin). University of Maryland Medical Center. http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/vitamin-b12-cobalamin

[10] Clinical aspects of coenzyme Q: Improvement of cellular bioenergetics or antioxidant protection? Littarru, Gian Paolo, et al. Handbook of Antioxidants, Eds. Enrique Cadenas, Lester Parker, New York: Marcel Dekker, Inc. 1996, pp. 203-239.

[11]  The multifaceted and widespread pathology of magnesium deficiency. S. Johnson. 2001. Med Hypotheses. 2001; 56(2).


About Natalia Lukina

Founder at Vital Formulas

Natalia has MS degree in Biology from the California Institute of Technology. After graduating from Caltech Natalia worked at the Scipps Research Institute doing research in cell biology. At the same time she completed a 2-year program in Drug Discovery and Development at UCSD. The more she learned about the Big Pharma business, the more she was upset about the current state of the drug industry. This has led to her studies of nutrition and natural supplementation. She wanted to create safe products that would help people stay healthy and away from medications. That's how Vital Formulas was born.



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