"In the first place, one of the studies used very low potency vitamins — so low that I don't expect anyone would think that they could help anything. Second, most of the multivitamins used in the studies were cheap synthetics, not natural vitamins. Inexpensive vitamins are made with synthetics, and many of the substances are made from petrochemicals, which provide a suboptimal response and can even be dangerous."
A study to determine the usefulness of multivitamins in cardiovascular disease was riddled with problems that made its findings useless, in Dr. Brownstein's opinion. "Half of the people stopped taking the vitamins during the study," he said. "That, in and of itself, negates it. Even so, they still found an 11 percent decrease in cardiovascular risk — it just didn't meet their criteria for statistical significance."
The recent studies supposedly debunking the value of multivitamins were released less than two weeks after a Harvard study showed a multivitamin combined with selenium slowed deterioration in AIDS patients. In fact, the scientists labeled their results "groundbreaking," adding that multivitamins could save a lot of lives at a small price. Another 2012 Harvard study found that multivitamins reduced cancer risk in older men.
Although the best way to get the vitamins and minerals your body needs is through a healthy diet, the typical diet lacks essential nutrients, according to Dr. Brownstein. "I check my patients for nutritional imbalances, and the vast majority of patients, both sick and well, have nutritional deficiencies."
One of the answers is a daily multivitamin, but choosing the right one is essential.
"Not all multivitamins are created equal," he says. "There are many inferior vitamins.
"It's best to enlist the help of a healthcare practitioner who can guide you and test you and adjust your supplements depending on what you need."
When looking for a good multivitamin, Dr. Brownstein suggests the following:
• Choose a natural supplement that contains natural, bioidentical versions of nutrients.
• Choose multivitamins that contain vitamin D3 — cholecalciferol. The synthetic form of vitamin D is D2 or ergocalciferol.
• Be sure to choose vitamins containing natural B12 — labeled as hydroxy-, methyl-, or adenosylcobalamin. Synthetic vitamin B12 is listed as cyanocobalamin.
• Avoid dyes, including FD&C Blue No. 2 Aluminum Lake, FD&C Red No. 40 Aluminum Lake, and FD&C Yellow No. 6 Aluminum Lake.
"These coloring agents are derived from coal tar, and they contain aluminum atoms," says Dr. Brownstein. "Elevated aluminum levels have been linked to Alzheimer's disease."
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