Aren't all Multi Vitamins Basically the Same?
By Max Wardlow
Multi vitamins can provide a convenient way to take a variety of supplemental nutrients from a single product to prevent vitamin or mineral deficiencies, as well as to achieve higher intakes of beneficial nutrients.
In the current state of the vitamin and nutritional supplement industry it can be difficult to decide which supplements will provide real health protection and improvement benefits and which are simply "me too" products designed primarily to ride the wave of public interest in preventative health.
To understand the need to be informed about vitamin and nutritional supplements, you must understand the regulatory environment that currently exists in the vitamin supplement industry in the United States.
Do Vitamin Companies Regulate Themselves?
In October of 1994, President Clinton signed into law the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA).
The DSHEA was written to help empower Americans to make choices about their own preventative health care strategies.
Under the DSHEA it was decided that nutritional supplements would continue to be regulated as a food product rather than the more restrictive regulations that drugs fall under.
While this made vitamin and nutritional supplements widely available it also allowed nutritional supplement manufacturers to practically regulate themselves, since there was no agreed upon standard of good manufacturing practice (GMP) and no government pressure to be true to the label on their products.
It was't until March of 2003, nine years after the DSHEA became law, that the FDA proposed new regulations to require current good manufacturing practices (CGMPs) in the manufacturing, packaging, and holding of nutritional supplements.
According to the FDA, this is what prompted the new regulation proposal:
"In recent years, analyses of dietary supplements by a private sector laboratory suggest that a substantial number of dietary supplement products analyzed may not contain the amounts of dietary ingredients that would be expected to be found based on their product labels". For example...
"Five of 18 soy and/or red clover-containing products were found to contain only 50 percent to 80 percent of the declared amounts of isoflavones".
"Of 25 probiotic products tested, 8 contained less than 1 percent of the claimed number of live bacteria or the number of bacteria that would be expected to be found in such a product".
The proposed rule will, for the first time, establish standards to ensure that vitamin supplement ingredients are not adulterated with contaminants or impurities, and are labeled to accurately to reflect the active ingredients and other ingredients in the product.
The proposed new regulations will be phased in over the next three years so as not to disrupt the production of nutritional supplements.
While the DSHEA has helped ensure that dietary supplements remain easily accessible without excessive regulation, (doctors prescriptions, etc.), it also has created a "wide open" atmosphere for manufacturers who aren't yet in compliance with good manufacturing practices (at this time, GMP compliance is voluntary).
It's very easy for a supplement company to jump on the bandwagonof the latest fad and put together a product with little or no research and poor quality (and cheap!) ingredients, and then market it with over-blown, unsubstantiated claims and pure hype.
Some of the most common products that this formula is used for are weight loss, HGH (human growth hormone) and multi vitamins.
Supplement users are in the position of having to trust vitamin supplement manufacturers to regulate themselves. Although the dietary supplement industry has an excellent track record of safety, it's been verified by the independent product testing of consumerlab.com that some supplements do not contain what is stated on their label and are sometimes contaminated.
While some vitamin supplement manufacturers are working hard to meet the new FDA guidelines, not all are. At this time, you have to do your own research and take extra precautions to find high quality nutritional supplements.
Tips for Choosing Nutritional Supplements
Vitamins, minerals and other nutrients work best when they're combined in a way that mimics nature as closely as possible. Look for nutritional supplements that have nutrients combined to make use of the natural synergy between them.
Companies willing to give a full disclosure and description of their ingredients have usually put more effort and research into their product. For example, instead of just saying "Calcium" the label should be more detailed like this: "Calcium (from 2430 mg Citrate, Malate, Ester-C)". This description indicates that higher quality ingredients and more up-to-date research was used for the supplement.
Verify that the supplement was produced at a pharmaceutical GMP (good manufacturing practices) facility. Since compliance to GMP standards is voluntary it's important to do your own research to verify that macro-biological testing is done at every stage of production.
(This issue shouldn't be taken lightly - as mentioned above, studies by Consumerlab.com have shown that some supplements don't have the true amount of ingredients as stated on the label, or may harbor toxic contaminants.)
Pharmaceutical grade supplements (sometimes called nutriceuticals) are made for "professional" use in the health care field by natural health care providers and consumers who want the best.
In the past decade pharmaceutical grade supplements have become more availableto the general public and this type of nutritional supplement will provide the health benefits that you're looking for, often for a very reasonable price.