Dosing and Potency of Multivitamins
by Tom Bohager, B.Sc.
Multivitamins are the most popular supplements sold today. More than half of all adults in the United States regularly take a multivitamin. They come in many forms including tablets, capsules and liquids. When it comes to choosing a multivitamin the choices can be overwhelming; one choice is whether to buy a wholefood multivitamin or one from isolated nutrients. When considering the differences it is best to understand the dose versus the potency of each. A dose is what is listed on the label; potency best describes what value it has to the body. Consider the following:
- The utilization of whole food is signiﬁcantly higher and therefore less is needed. Absorption and utilization should not be confused. Absorption is often deﬁned as a nutrient leaving the digestive system and entering the blood stream. Studies have suggested that the absorption of isolated nutrients is similar to whole food. However, the real value of a nutrient comes from utilization when it enters the cell. Studies suggest that bioavailability of nutrients that are a part of a whole food matrix is better than isolated USP vitamins. For example, a human study concluded that natural vitamin E has roughly twice the availability than synthetic vitamin E. Another example is vitamin C. Whole food vitamin C has two ascorbate forms with bioﬂavonoids while isolated ascorbic acid (isolated vitamin C) does not contain bioﬂavonoids. When comparing isolated vitamin C alone or in a natural citrus extract, the citrus extract was found to be more bioavailable than ascorbic acid alone in human subjects.
- Healthy meals do not contain the recommended daily allowance of all vitamins and minerals. A healthy diet is one consisting of nutrient-dense foods with limited caloric value. Whole food multivitamins contain enzymes as part of a whole food matrix with very few calories. This is by deﬁnition the most valuable type of nutritional intake according to caloric restriction research. Professor Clive McCay of Cornell University discovered that animals on a low calorie, nutrient-rich diet outlived animals allowed to eat as much as they wanted. According to Dr. Roy Walford, a pioneer in the ﬁeld of caloric restriction, providing the body usable energy means providing energy for manufacturing proteins and other bodily constituents. The most efﬁcient way to do this is on a nutrient-dense diet that provides, with limited but targeted supplementation, all essential nutrients. A two-year study using eight adult volunteers presented evidence that a low calorie, nutrient-dense diet produces physiological changes in a human similar to those seen in calorie restricted animals.
- Enzymes enhance utilization. Without enzymes, no nutrients consumed, whether originated from food or from isolated forms, would provide nutrition to the cell. Because whole food multivitamins are attached to enzymes, and a unique blend of enzymes are sometimes added to enhance their uptake, it is not required to have extremely high doses (above the recommended daily intake) to provide a meaningful beneﬁt.
Though many isolated vitamins and minerals often far exceed the “Recommended Daily Intake,” the potency can be very low. While the doses of whole food multivitamins are low compared to common isolated nutrients, the potency is very high. Choose wisely!
Tom Bohager holds a Bachelor’s degree in holistic nutrition and is the author of two books about enzymes:
Everything You Need to Know About Enzymes, (2008), and Enzymes: What the Experts Know (2006).