Many people believe it or not, some of the healthiest eaters in the world, think that because their diet is so healthy, they are not at risk of a nutrient deficiency and for so little cost and consideration they are putting themselves at great risk.
Well, a good place to start is with a general multivitamin and mineral supplement.
The Reason Why
Science moves much faster than most companies can keep pace with, but Dr. Fuhrman strives to keep his products as current as possible. Dr. Fuhrman continually improves the quality of his supplements, adjusting their contents to stay current with new scientific research.
Dr. Fuhrman’s multivitamin and mineral supplements include whole food derived nutrients: vitamin K2 derived from flower extracts, which is more bio available than synthetic vitamin K11; vitamin C from acerola fruit; iodine from kelp; and resveratrol from polygonum cuspidatum root. In addition, whole food extracts including acai, kale, watercress, and goji berry have been added to supply additional phytochemicals and maximize the antioxidant benefit of the supplement. Finally, most of Dr. Fuhrman’s multivitamin and mineral supplements are packaged in vegetarian capsules, which can be opened in order to add the supplement to food or drink for those who prefer not to swallow the capsules whole.
Avoid taking supplements containing these ingredients: vitamin A, vitamin E, folic acid, beta carotene, copper and iron
Dr. Fuhrman designed his multivitamin and mineral supplements with the highest standards for safety, efficacy, and quality in mind. Nowhere else will you find a multivitamin and mineral supplement that takes into consideration all of the latest scientific findings and continues to reinvent itself as new evidence about the harmful or beneficial effects of vitamin and mineral supplementation is exposed. Most multivitamin products on the market all have too much of some things and too little of others. Dr. Fuhrman’s goal in creating his multivitamin and mineral products is to first “do no harm” and second provide a best in class supplement that will top off a healthful diet.
CAN TAKING SUPPLEMENTS HURT INSTEAD OF HELP?
The main problem with taking a typical multivitamin is that it may expose you to extra nutrients that you do not need. While most people can certainly benefit from a multivitamin, it is important to choose the right one. Excessive quantities of some vitamins and minerals can be toxic or have long-term negative health effects. Some forms are more absorbable and useful to our bodies then others. Selecting a multivitamin can be very confusing because new and sometimes conflicting research appears almost every day. There are endless varieties available and a never ending list of health claims. Dr. Fuhrman thoroughly reviews the medical literature before allowing ingredients to be included in his supplements. When new research becomes available, his products are reformulated as necessary.
More is Not Always Better
We know it is important to avoid vitamin and mineral deficiencies but it is just as important to avoid consuming excessively high levels of certain nutrients. Frequently, Dr. Fuhrman finds that patients who take an assortment of nutritional supplements consume potentially harmful levels of B6, iron, and even selenium, copper or zinc. The levels of vitamins and minerals in Dr. Fuhrman’s multivitamin and mineral supplements are optimized to provide enough of each nutrient while not running the risk of dangerously high intake levels. These well designed multivitamins can be used without fear of exposure to excessive or toxic components.
Folic Acid – Recent Studies Indicate Folic Acid May Promote Tumor Growth
Recently, there have been some troubling studies connecting folic acid supplementation with breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers.2 Folate and folic acid are members of the B vitamin family. Folate is the form found naturally in foods, especially green vegetables. Too much folate obtained naturally from food is not a concern. It comes naturally packaged in balance with other micronutrients and the body regulates its absorption.3
Folic acid is the synthetic form that is added to food or used as an ingredient in vitamin supplements. Folic acid is added to most enriched, refined grain products like bread, rice and pasta in the U.S. and Canada in an attempt to replace the nutrients lost during the processing of the whole grain. Since folic acid is added to so many refined grain products, it is very easy for a typical diet combined with a multivitamin to end up with very high levels of folic acid. Folic acid is not found in natural foods.
Recent studies have shown that folic acid supplementation may be a double-edged sword: getting enough may keep tumors from starting by repairing errors in DNA, but getting too much may feed tumors once they start.4 It may play a dual role in cancer development by providing protection early in carcinogenesis and in individuals with a low folate status, but promoting carcinogenesis if administered later at higher intakes. This could affect people who may have an early stage tumor but are not aware of it.5
In light of this research, Dr. Fuhrman does not include synthetic folic acid in his multivitamin and mineral supplements. A diet rich in green vegetables is high in folate, and one can’t escape from the biological needs of humans to eat green vegetables regularly. Depending on supplements to provide folic acid instead of the consuming green vegetables to obtain natural folate is something that Dr. Fuhrman does not support. We need to eat vegetables to obtain the safer form of folate. Dr. Fuhrman acknowledges that it is unrealistic to assume that all children will always eat sufficient green vegetables, so he has added a small dose of folate in its natural form to Pixie Vites.
Beta-carotene, Vitamin A, and Vitamin E are Risky to Take in Supplemental Form
Dr. Fuhrman does not recommend taking supplements that contain vitamin A or isolated beta-carotene because there are risks associated with consumption of these nutrients above what we receive in our diet. Ingesting vitamin A or beta-carotene in isolation from supplements, instead of food may interfere with the absorption of other crucially important carotenoids, such as lutein and lycopene, thus potentially increasing cancer risk.6
Isolated Beta-Carotene Increases Cancer Risk
The precursor to vitamin A, beta-carotene was once regarded as a safe and beneficial antioxidant and even recommended as an anti-cancer vitamin, but it has recently been shown to increase the risk of certain cancers when administered as an isolated supplement. Scientists now suspect that health problems may result when beta-carotene is ingested without other carotenoids that would have been present had it been ingested from real food. Beta-carotene is only one of about 500 carotenoids that exist. Beta-carotene supplements are poor substitutes for the broad assortment of carotenoid compounds found in plants.
Researchers thought that beta-carotene had a powerful anti-cancer effect because they had found that populations with high levels of beta-carotene in their bloodstream had exceedingly low rates of cancer. Recently, it was discovered that the reason these people were protected against cancer was because of hundreds of carotenoids and phytochemicals in the fruits and vegetables they were consuming. It wasn’t that beta-carotene alone was responsible for the benefit; it was merely that it had served as a flag or marker for those populations with a high fruit and vegetable intake. Unfortunately, many scientists confused the flag for the ship.
In Finnish trials, using beta-carotene supplements failed to prevent lung cancer, and there was actually an increase in cancer in those who took the supplement.7 This study was halted when the physician researchers discovered the death rate from lung cancer was 28 percent higher among participants who had taken the high amounts of beta-carotene and vitamin A. The death rate from heart disease was also 17 percent higher in those who had taken the supplements compared to those just given a placebo.8 Another recent study showed similar results, correlating beta-carotene supplementation with an increased occurrence of prostate cancer. Furthermore, a meta-analysis of antioxidant vitamin supplementation found that beta-carotene supplementation was associated with increased all-cause mortality rate.9
As a result of these European studies, as well as similar studies conducted here in the United States, articles in the New England Journal of Medicine,10 the Journal of the National Cancer Institute,11 and the Lancet12 all advise people to stop taking beta-carotene supplements.
Vitamin A Poses Even Greater Risk
Yes, taking extra vitamin A (retinyl palmatate and retinyl acetate) may be even more risky than using supplemental beta carotene. Since beta-carotene gets converted into vitamin A by your body, there is no reason a person eating a reasonably healthy diet should require any extra vitamin A. There is solid research revealing that supplemental vitamin A induces calcium loss in the urine, contributing to osteoporosis. Too much vitamin A is known to be toxic to the liver, and can cause birth defects. The most common effect of toxic doses of vitamin A in animals is spontaneous fracture.
In humans, excess vitamin A is potentially a problem, even in ranges not normally considered toxic.13 One study found that subjects with a vitamin A intake in the range of 1.5 mg had double the hip fracture rate of those with an intake in that range of .5 mg.14 For every 1 mg increase in vitamin A consumption, hip fracture rate increased by 68%. Vitamin A supplementation has also been associated with a 16% increase in all-cause mortality. The same meta-analysis reported an increase in mortality for vitamin E supplementation.8
In spite of the huge volume of solid information documenting the deleterious effects of beta-carotene, vitamin A, and vitamin E, it is still almost impossible to find a multiple vitamin that does not contain these substances. Dr. Fuhrman’s multivitamin and mineral supplements contain a wide range of whole food extracts that provide numerous carotenoids, not just beta-carotene, and it does not contain vitamin A.
What about Iron and Copper?
With the exception of Gentle Prenatal, Dr. Fuhrman’s multivitamin and mineral supplements do not contain iron. It is wise not to take supplemental iron unless needed. Although iron is crucial for oxygen transport and other physiological processes, in excess iron is an oxidant that may contribute to cardiovascular disease and cognitive decline in older adults.15 Iron only should be taken as a supplement when a deficiency or increased need exists, such as during pregnancy — for this reason, iron is included in Dr. Fuhrman’s Gentle Prenatal.
Recent studies have shown that excess copper could be associated with reduced immune function and lower antioxidant status.13 Recently published research also indicates that high copper intake along with a diet high in saturated and trans fats could lead to an accelerated rate of mental decline in older adults as well as atherosclerosis.12,16 For these reasons, Dr. Fuhrman’s multivitamin and mineral supplements do not include copper.
Supplemental Selenium may be harmful
There is some evidence that high selenium levels may contribute to diabetes, hyperlipidemia, prostate cancer, and cardiovascular disease, and impaired immune and thyroid function. Therefore, supplementation beyond what is present in natural foods is likely not beneficial, and may result in overexposure.18 Since children usually do not eat ideal diets, a small dose of selenium is included in Pixie Vites to prevent deficiencies.
DO PEOPLE EATING A RELATIVELY HEALTHY DIET NEED A MULTI?
Dr. Fuhrman believes they do. Some people, even when consuming an ideal diet, may need more of certain nutrients. Individual absorption and utilization of nutrients varies from person to person and some people simply require more to maximize their health. For example, some individuals require more Vitamin D or B12 due to differences in absorption and utilization, and likewise some may also require more minerals such as zinc for maximizing their health and longevity. By taking one of Dr. Fuhrman’s multivitamin and mineral supplements along with an excellent diet, longevity and protection against disease is even more enhanced.
It is well established that a high quality, nutrient rich diet can reduce the risk of chronic illnesses such as cancer, heart disease and osteoporosis.19 Most Americans however, continue to eat a nutritionally deficient, disease-causing diet. In fact, eighty percent do not even come close to eating five servings of fruits and vegetables daily. This leads to significant deficiencies in a number of micronutrients such as vitamins E and C, the B vitamins, zinc, carotenoids and magnesium.20
Real nutrient-rich, natural foods supply much more than vitamins and minerals. Taking a multi, even one of these carefully designed ones, is obviously not a substitute for healthful eating and can’t supply ideal levels of all micronutrients or make up for the harmful substances taken in when consuming processed foods. These supplements are designed for people who are already eating fairly healthfully. While we can’t ensure we are always getting the proper balance and amount of all nutrients – despite even the best efforts, it makes sense to take a high quality multivitamin and mineral supplement to bring our level of micronutrients up to ideal levels. Both too much and too little nutrients can be suboptimal. Suboptimal intake of some vitamins is a risk factor for chronic diseases and common in the general population, especially the elderly.21 These supplements are designed to optimize nutrient levels. At the same time Dr. Fuhrman is cautious not to give too much of any nutrient and to specifically avoid those that are questionable and are safer to be supplied by natural foods to avoid risk.
Do These Products Meet the Needs of Vegetarians and Vegans?
All of Dr. Fuhrman’s multivitamin and mineral supplements are vegetarian, and Gentle Care Formula (which includes the vegan form of vitamin D) is 100% vegan. A total vegetarian (vegan) diet is deficient in meeting the nutrient needs of most individuals for vitamin B12. Dr. Fuhrman’s multivitamin and mineral supplements supply more than the RDI for B12. The decision to use more than the RDI for B12 was because so many people require more, especially vegans and the elderly.22 Plus, extra B12 is completely non-toxic.23 If you choose to follow a vegan diet, it is essential to consume enough supplemental B12. Dr. Fuhrman’s multivitamin and mineral supplements supply the extra B12 and vitamin D that vegans almost always need. Additional zinc is also useful for most vegans. Plant foods have high zinc content, however they also contain substances that inhibit the aborption of zinc.24 A 2009 study of vegetarians found a high prevalence of zinc deficiency.25 The zinc requirement for vegans is estimated to be as much as 50% higher than that of omnivores.26
DR. FUHRMAN’S MULTIVITAMIN AND MINERAL SUPPLEMENTS
The most current nutrition research is used to determine what Dr. Fuhrman’s multivitamin and mineral supplements does and does not contain. The highest quality, most absorbable forms of each nutrient are used. Dr. Fuhrman continually reviews the ingredients in his products. He makes sure they contain the best form of each nutrient in the optimal amount.
HIGHLIGHTING SOME OF THE VITAMINS
Vitamin B12 helps make red blood cells and keeps your nervous system working properly. As we get older, we become less able to absorb the vitamin B12 that is found naturally in food.18 Nutrient supplementation beyond what can be obtained from the diet is often necessary to optimize immune function, especially in older people. Even people eating the high nutrient diet that Dr. Fuhrman recommends may be deficient in vitamin B12. Although diets low in animal products dramatically reduce risk of developing certain diseases and increase life expectancy, they need a supplemental source of vitamin B12 which is found mainly in foods of animal origin. Dr. Fuhrman has selected the most biologically active form of B12, methylcolbalamin, since it is readily utilized by the body without requiring any further metabolic steps.19 Most commonly, vitamin supplements use a synthetic and inactive form of B12 called cyanocobalamin which requires a number of metabolic steps before it can be of any benefit. This is suboptimal especially for some people with certain deficiencies or health issues. Recent research has suggested that the current U.S. RDI of B12 may be inadequate even for young people,27 and Dr. Fuhrman’s multivitamin and mineral supplements contain significantly more than the RDI in order to ensure sufficient B12 levels. Lack of B12 can lead to anemia, depression, stomach problems, and nerve damage.
Deficiency of Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, is very common because many avoid sun exposure, wear sunscreen or spend most of their time indoors. Avoiding the sun may protect against skin damage, but a vitamin D insufficiency can be an important contributing factor in the progression of osteoporosis. A lack of vitamin D is also thought to contribute to several cancers, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and depression.28 Taking supplemental vitamin D is highly recommended. Dr. Fuhrman’s multivitamin and mineral supplements supply a higher dose than the standard RDI because there is evidence that the current RDI is insufficient.30 The level of supplementation necessary for individuals to reach optimal serum 25(OH)D levels may vary. Levels should be assessed by blood test and supplementation should be adjusted accordingly. For some that will be 1000-2000 IU, but others may require more. For additional vitamin D supplementation, Dr. Fuhrman’s Osteo-Sun is available, combining an optimal blend of calcium, D, and other supportive minerals.
Vitamin K acts as a coenzyme in a variety of metabolic reactions essential for blood clotting. Additionally, vitamin K is important in supporting bone health; without it, our bodies could not utilize the calcium needed for bone and tooth formation. Dr. Fuhrman’s multivitamin and mineral supplements contain Vitamin K2, a naturally occurring form of vitamin K shown to have superior, more complete absorption31 over vitamin K1. Vitamin K2 is more potent and has the widest range of activity. It is another important feature that makes Dr. Fuhrman’s multivitamin and mineral supplements unique.
K2 alone has also been found to protect against arterial calcification and the oxidation (free radical damage) of LDL cholesterol.32 In 2004, the Rotterdam Study revealed that increased dietary intake specifically of vitamin K2 significantly reduced the risk of coronary heart disease by 50% as compared to low dietary vitamin K2 intake. In this study, Vitamin K1 had no effect.33 Similar results were found in another study conducted in 2009.34 Far more active than K1 in both bone formation and reduction of bone loss supplementation with vitamin K2 has been shown to be an effective treatment against osteoporosis. A review study of randomized controlled human trials of at least 6 months duration that assessed the use of vitamin K1 or K2 to lower fracture risk identified 13 trials. In all but one, vitamin K reduced bone loss with K2 being most effective, reducing risk of vertebral fracture by 60%, hip fracture by 77% and all non-vertebral fractures by 81%.35
HIGHLIGHTING SOME OF THE MINERALS
Bio availability refers to the amount of an ingested nutrient that is actually absorbed and made available for use in the body. Minerals have a wide range of bioavailability depending on the form they are in and what they are bonded to. Nutrients ingested in supplemental form are not useful unless they can be absorbed and utilized for growth, maintenance and repair. In Dr. Fuhrman’s multivitamin and mineral supplements, he has selected the mineral forms with greatest bioavailability. Amino acid chelates are used because they have the potential to enhance absorption by forming a complex with the mineral.36 Chelation is a natural function of the body to facilitate transport of minerals across the intestinal wall as part of digestion. Amino acids are good chelating agents because they are very well-absorbed by the body.
Zinc is vital for the health of many of the body’s systems. It is particularly important for healthy skin and is essential for a healthy immune system and resistance to infection. Zinc, generally, cannot be absorbed by the body unless it is linked up with other substances. Most commonly it is linked up with organic acids or amino acids in a process called chelation. These chelated forms are more absorbable than others. The Zinc picolinate is included in the formula because zinc absorption in humans can be improved by complexing zinc with amino acids or picolinic acid.35,37 Zinc when ingested, forms a complex with picolinic acid which enhances the rate of absorption. Vegetarians, vegans and flexatarians require more zinc, compared with those that regularly consume animal products because the zinc from animal products is more easily absorbed than the zinc from plant sources.
The main source of iodine in the diet is iodized salt. High salt intake however, is a primary cause of high blood pressure. Dr. Fuhrman’s multivitamin and mineral supplements take into consideration Dr. Fuhrman’s recommendation to avoid all salt added to food. Dr. Fuhrman’s multivitamin and mineral supplements will assure adequate iodine intake in those who seek to minimize their salt intake.
Remember, dietary supplements are indeed supplements, not substitutes for a healthy diet. Supplements alone cannot offer optimal protection against disease, and you cannot make an unhealthy diet into a healthy one by consuming supplements.