Are the most popular multivitamins actually dangerous? Turns out that they can harm you even more than going without vitamins and minerals.
There’s no doubt that vitamin deficiencies can be incredibly harmful. If you don’t get the vitamins you need, you could develop anemia, have neurological issues, or become more prone to various chronic diseases.
However, don’t let the dangers of vitamin and mineral deficiencies trick you into making hasty decisions. Not all multivitamins are made equal, and some of the most popular vitamins on the market can actually do more harm than vitamin and mineral deficiencies. In this guide, we’ll cover the reasons that you should choose your multivitamin with caution and consider the benefits of a simple multivitamin like Feel.
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:
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.
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.
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.
In addition to useless ingredients that could give you diseases, plenty of multivitamins also contain inferior types of vitamins and minerals. While these ingredients save money for pharmaceutical companies, they harm consumers. Here are a few examples:
Many multivitamin companies cut corners by using calcium carbonate, which is the same thing as the chalk you use on a chalkboard, as a calcium source. However, research indicates that this form of calcium doesn’t absorb nearly as well as calcium citrate5, which is more expensive.
Calcium carbonate serves a dual purpose in multivitamins by stabilising vitamin blends. However, far less calcium carbonate will absorb into your gut than an equal amount of calcium citrate, which means that your organs will need to process a lot of this substance out of your body before it can be of any use.
The body needs natural vitamin E, also called D-alpha-tocopherol, to function healthily. However, many multivitamins include DL-alpha-tocopherol, which is a synthetic form of vitamin E.
Scientists have found that the body doesn’t absorb synthetic vitamin E as well as it absorbs natural vitamin E7. This means that you’ll need to supplement with more synthetic vitamin E to get the same effects as a lesser amount of natural vitamin E.
SUMMARY: Not all vitamin and mineral sources are made equal. Brush up on the different ingredients used in multivitamins before you pick a brand.
There are a couple of simple answers to this question. First, do your research. Second, avoid any multivitamins from huge pharmaceutical companies.
If there’s even a single ingredient in a multivitamin that you don’t recognise, don’t buy that product until you’ve learned more. That’s what smartphones are for; you can learn everything you need to know about the safety of a particular ingredient you aren’t familiar with on a multivitamin label with a quick Google search.
Try to learn as much about vitamin ingredients and the vitamin industry before you proceed. For instance, you should know that a variety of vitamins were found to be fake in 20158. While the multivitamin industry has supposedly cleaned itself up since then, this controversy just goes to show that mainstream multivitamins can’t be trusted.
Pfizer, which is one of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical giants, is the maker of Centrum, which is one of the world’s most hated multivitamins. This vitamin is packed full of dangerous supplement ingredients and fillers, but you can still find it on shelves across the country. Make sure you can trust the maker of a supplement before you make a decision.
As a side note, remember that capsules are the safest types of supplements. Chewables contain tons of stabilisers and emulsifiers, and tablets aren’t much different. Most capsules, on the other hand, deliver the vitamins and minerals you need in an easily-digestible vegetable cellulose container.
SUMMARY: Chewables and tablets are off-limits, and remember that some of the multivitamins you find on the shelf might be fake.
Unless you’re enjoying an ideal diet every day, you need multivitamins. It’s time, however, to recognise that multivitamins aren’t always healthy and that plenty of multivitamin manufacturers don’t care about their customers. Here at WeAreFeel, our dissatisfaction with the dangerous ingredients in multivitamins and careless practices in the vitamin industry inspired us to create Feel, which doesn’t contain any fillers or harmful forms of vitamins or minerals.
It’s always best to get the vitamins and minerals you need from food. When your busy lifestyle keeps you from eating the way you know you should, however, count on carefully crafted multivitamins like Feel to see you through.