As a general rule of thumb, any multivitamin you find on the shelves of a Walmart or a pharmacy chain probably contains ingredients that you don’t want to put in your body. Centrum, for instance, which is one of the world’s most popular multivitamins, contains plenty of fillers, binders, and artificial colours that wreak havoc once you introduce them into your system.
The American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) rightfully points out that many of the ingredients in Centrum Silver are actually industrial products1 that have no business being in multivitamins. Here are some examples of common multivitamin ingredients that you should make sure to avoid:
1. Hydrogenated Oils
The main purpose of hydrogenated oils, also known as trans fats, is to keep food products solid at room temperature, and these substances can also serve as fillers. However, these fats are powerful free radicals, which means that they damage your cells. Trans fats are so dangerous that prominent scientists have even called for these substances to be banned2.
2. Soy Lecithin
On its own, soy lecithin is already a controversial ingredient. This substance is made from GMO soy, which means that it may damage your body in a variety of ways. However, it’s also important to keep in mind that soy lecithin is extracted using hexane, which is one of the world’s most dangerous extraction substances.
Hexane leaves behind a residue in food products, including multivitamins, and the EPA has found that this substance can cause serious neurological damage3. At the levels in which hexane is found in soy lecithin, it might not be dangerous, but the presence of hexane residue is still a good reason to give multivitamins with soy lecithin a pass.
3. Artificial Colors
There’s an understandable (if misguided) rationale for including certain dangerous ingredients in multivitamins. Big over-the-counter drug companies are always looking for ways to maximise profits, and using cheap ingredients makes sense when you value money more than the health of your customers. When it comes to using artificial colours in multivitamins, however, there’s no rationale that makes sense.
Who cares what colour your multivitamin is? For many manufacturers, however, this trivial detail is somehow important. Yellow no. 6 aluminum lake is a common ingredient in multivitamins, but this dye has been shown to cause adrenal tumours in rats4. The other artificial colours in multivitamins are equally useless, and some of them could cause even more serious side effects than adrenal tumours.
SUMMARY: Many multivitamins contain toxic ingredients. Learn how to read ingredient labels properly before you pop a multivitamin in your mouth.
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