You’ve been taking a multivitamin for months but you haven’t noticed any changes. Or you like your multivitamin, but it causes stomach cramps and leaves you running to the bathroom all morning. Sound familiar? These are struggles that so many of us experience for a variety of reasons. It may be that you’re not taking a high-quality supplement, that the type of supplement isn’t effective or even that your own habits are getting in the way of you getting the most from your multivitamin.
Multivitamins are meant to provide additional nutritional support to your diet, and contain a mix of vitamins and minerals that support a variety of wellness goals from clearer skin to increased energy. They come in many different forms, including tablets, capsules, drops and gummies, and are marketed as a way to improve your overall health and well-being. However, not all multivitamins are created equal, and some may not be effective in providing the nutrients you need. In this blog post, we will explore the reasons why your multivitamin may not be working, and tips for you to get the most out of your multivitamin.
Say Bye to Your Gummy Vitamins
There are different forms that your vitamins can come in, but not all are effective. Capsules, tablets and drops have been shown to be the most effective and easiest for your body to absorb. Gummy vitamins have become increasingly popular because they usually taste great and they are easy to take. However, research suggests that gummy vitamins may not be as effective as traditional capsule or tablet vitamins.
One major issue with gummy vitamins is that they often contain lower amounts of vitamins and minerals than traditional pill-form vitamins. In a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, researchers found that gummy vitamins particularly contained significantly lower levels of vitamins A, C, D, and E, and magnesium than capsule supplements. This means that gummy vitamins are not able to deliver the same benefits as other forms of multivitamins.
Gummy vitamins often contain added sugars to give them their taste, which can lead to negative health effects such as weight gain, insulin resistance, and tooth decay. The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 25 grams of added sugar per day, yet a single serving of gummy vitamins can contain up to 8 grams of sugar. Many gummies also include other fillers like corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, and natural or artificial flavors that are linked to increased inflammation, stomach inflammation, diabetes and even some forms of cancer.
While gummy vitamins may seem like a convenient and tasty way to get your daily dose of vitamins, they may not be as effective as other forms of vitamins and may even be harming your health. Consumers should be aware of the potential downsides of gummy vitamins and consider alternative options to meet their nutritional needs.
Natural Vs. Synthetic Vitamins
Another factor that can affect the effectiveness of a multivitamin is the source of the vitamins themselves. Vitamins can come in two forms: synthetic and natural. Synthetic vitamins are chemically produced in a laboratory and may not be as easily absorbed by your body as natural vitamins. Natural vitamins, on the other hand, come from food or other natural sources and are generally considered to be more bioavailable, meaning they are easier for your body to absorb and use. It's important to note that not all synthetic vitamins are bad for you, but in general you will want to look for supplements that contain the natural forms of vitamins.
Let's take the example of folate and folic acid. Folate is the natural form of vitamin B9, found in leafy greens, citrus fruits, and beans. Folic acid, on the other hand, is the synthetic form of vitamin B9 often found in fortified foods and supplements. Research has shown that the body can more easily absorb and utilize folate than folic acid. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women who took folic acid supplements had lower levels of folate in their blood than those who took a folate supplement.
Here is a list of common vitamins in their natural and synthetic forms for reference:
- Vitamin A - beta-carotene (natural) / retinyl palmitate (synthetic)
- Vitamin B6 - pyridoxal-5-phosphate (natural) / pyridoxine hydrochloride (synthetic)
- Vitamin B12 - methylcobalamin (natural) / cyanocobalamin (synthetic)
- Folate - 5 methyltetrahydrofolate or 5-MTHF (natural) / folic acid (synthetic)
- Vitamin D - vitamin d3 as cholecalciferol (natural) - dihydrotachysterol (synthetic)
- Vitamin E - d-alpha tocopherol succinate (natural) - dl-alpha tocopherol (synthetic)
- Vitamin K - menaquinone-7 (natural) / menadione (synthetic)
- Zinc - zinc picolinate (natural) / zinc oxide (synthetic)
It's important to note that there are also different forms of vitamins that aren't just synthetic vs. natural. For example, Vitamin D2 and Vitamin D3. Vitamin D2 is often found in fortified foods and supplements, while Vitamin D3 is the form naturally produced by the body when the skin is exposed to sunlight. Research has shown that Vitamin D3 is more effective at raising Vitamin D levels in the blood than Vitamin D2. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that Vitamin D3 was 87% more effective than Vitamin D2 at raising Vitamin D levels. This is especially important for melanated people, as an estimated 76-90% of us are Vitamin D deficient, largely because the melanin in our skin interferes with our body’s ability to absorb Vitamin D from the sun.
Your Supplements are Full of Fillers
Many supplements contain fillers or additives that are used to make the manufacturing process easier, or to improve the appearance, texture, and shelf life of the product. However, these fillers can have negative effects on the body and may interfere with the absorption of the nutrients in the multivitamin.
One common filler used in supplements is magnesium stearate, which is often added to improve the flow of the powder during manufacturing. While magnesium stearate is generally recognized as safe by the FDA, some studies have suggested that it may impair the absorption of nutrients in the supplement. Magnesium stearate can also have a laxative effect, and cause stomach discomfort that many experience when taking supplements.
Another common filler is titanium dioxide, which is often used as a whitening agent. While titanium dioxide is also considered safe by the FDA, some studies have suggested that it may have negative effects on the gut microbiome and immune system. It has also been banned as a food additive by the European Food Safety Authority. Additionally, titanium dioxide is a nanoparticle, which means that it is very small and can easily penetrate the body's cells. This has raised concerns about its potential to cause cellular damage. Titanium dioxide may also cause stomach inflammation and discomfort.
Here is a list of common supplement fillers that you may want to consider avoiding due to potential side effects:
- Magnesium stearate
- Magnesium Silicate
- Titanium dioxide
- Hydrogenated oils
- Corn Syrup
- Artificial or Natural Flavors
- Artificial Colors
- Sodium benzoate
In addition to fillers, you should look for supplements that have been third-party tested for safety to ensure that you are avoiding heavy metals, toxins, microbes and other potential harmful contaminants. And if you’re vegan, gluten free or have another allergy or dietary preference, ensure that you are looking for supplements that are certified Vegan or allergen free - because you can’t always assume that every ingredient and its source is listed on the label. For example, many forms of Vitamin D are not vegan and are derived from sheep wool.
How To Improve Absorption
Once you find a high-quality supplement, there are still things you should do to get the most out of your multivitamin.
- Take your supplements with a meal. Taking your multivitamin with a meal can help improve absorption. Vitamins are fat-soluble or water-soluble, and taking them with food can help your body absorb the fat-soluble vitamins better. This is especially important for vitamins A, D, E, and K, which require fat to be absorbed.
- Stay hydrated. Staying hydrated is essential for optimal nutrient absorption. Water helps to dissolve and transport nutrients throughout your body, and being dehydrated can make it harder for your body to absorb the vitamins and minerals in your multivitamin. Aim to drink at least eight glasses of water a day, and more if you are active or sweat a lot.
- Eat a Healthy Diet. Multivitamins are meant to supplement your diet, not replace it. Focus on eating whole, nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. These foods are not only rich in vitamins and minerals but also contain fiber, which can help support your digestive health.
- Pay Attention to Timing. When you take your supplements may make a difference in terms of benefits and absorption. Most people prefer to take multivitamins in the earlier part of the day or during lunch to make it easiest to take with food and plenty of water. If your supplement contains Vitamin B12, taking it at night may impact your ability to fall asleep.
- Avoid Taking Too Many Supplements. Taking too much of certain vitamins and minerals can be harmful to your health. For example, high doses of vitamin A can cause liver damage, while high doses of iron can lead to iron toxicity. It's important to follow the recommended dosage on the label, be aware of the different supplements you are taking and talk to your healthcare provider before starting a new supplement regimen.
Choosing the right multivitamin or supplements can make a big difference in your overall health and wellbeing. As we've discussed, not all vitamins are created equal, and it's important to do your research to ensure that you're taking high-quality supplements that are effective and safe.
From gummy vitamins to synthetic forms of vitamins, there are things to look out for when selecting a supplement. By opting for natural forms of vitamins, avoiding fillers, and being mindful of how you take your supplements, you can give your body the nutrients and extra support it needs to thrive. So, the next time you're at the store considering buying the cutest bottle on the shelf, think about all the tips we discussed to ensure you’re selecting the best supplement and avoiding harmful side effects.
The Mela Difference
So you’re ready to find a non-gummy multivitamin that uses the natural forms vitamins, avoids harmful fillers and doesn’t cause a stomach ache? We’re here to help! Our Daily Essentials provide your daily dose of nutrients, high-dose Vitamin D and B12, Lion’s Mane, Ceylon Cinnamon and five strains of probiotics in only two vegan capsules a day. We use the natural forms of vitamins, and we always avoid harmful fillers and additives. Our Daily Essentials are also certified vegan, non-GMO, and gluten-free.
Cleveland Clinic. (2018, September 26). Do Gummy Vitamins Work as Well as Traditional Vitamins? https://health.clevelandclinic.org/do-gummy-vitamins-work-as-well-as-traditional-vitamins/
EFSA. (2021, September 15). Titanium dioxide (E 171) no longer considered safe when used as a food additive. https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/news/titanium-dioxide-e171-no-longer-considered-safe-when-used-food-additive
Gombart, A. F. (2020, June 10). The Best Time to Take Vitamins. Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/the-best-time-to-take-vitamins/#:~:text=%E2%80%9CThe%20best%20time%20to%20take,as%20fat%2Dsoluble%20ones.%E2%80%9D
Löbenberg, R., & Steinke, W. (2001). Disintegration and Dissolution of Vitamin Tablets in a Model Human Stomach. Journal of pharmaceutical sciences, 90(10), 1390–1397. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11090291/