Multivitamins: Natural vs. Unnatural

For most people, buying a multivitamin is a one-size-fits-all way to cover your bases. It’s sort of a nutritional insurance policy. But are they really all they’re cracked up to be?

I don’t think so.

In my experience, the ingredients in the majority of multivitamins add a toxic load to the body and don’t do much to modulate an individual’s nutrient status. Most multivitamins use synthetic or semi-synthetic chemicals that are believed to work as analogues to the vital nutrients your body uses. In other words, the FDA says it’s okay for supplement manufacturers to list ascorbic acid as “Vitamin C”, so that’s what they often use in it’s place. While many people experience anti-oxidative benefits from supplementing ascorbic acid, the reality is that true Vitamin C is a complex of bioflavonoids with many components and co-factors, which aren’t encompassed by supplementation with ascorbic acid alone. (Also beware of the estrogenic effects of high dose ascorbic acid.) This same concept applies to most of the forms of vitamins and minerals found in common multivitamins.

Take the case of supplemental Vitamin D. Unless you’re supplementing your Vitamin D from cod liver oil or some other naturally occurring source of Vitamin D in it’s animal form (psst, hey – you’re an animal), then you’re taking something other than what Nature intended. What is sold as Vitamin D in the healthfood industry is, indeed, Vitamin D – and it does come from an animal – but there’s an important caveat. Industrial cholecalciferol is UV radiated lanolin. The industry found a way to take the sticky stuff that comes from sheep sebaceous glands (i.e. sheep sweat) that Grandpa used to put on his knuckles in the winter to keep them moisturized, and expose it to high doses of UV light. This is exactly what your skin does when exposed to the sun. The cholesterol in your body becomes sulfated and becomes cholecalciferol, which is absorbed into the bloodstream to be sent to the kidneys to become Vitamin D. You see the problem there?

This is about as logical as saying you’re going to get all your Vitamin D by eating pork skins and call that “natural”. It’s not natural. Don’t get me wrong – I love pork skins. But it’s not how Nature intended for you to get your Vitamin D. Butter, milk, eggs, meat, cheese, and – most importantlythe Sun are how you are designed to get your Vitamin D.

Here’s my last example (and it’s a doozy): cyanocobalamin. Cyanocobalamin is one of the cheapest and most readily available forms of Vitamin B12 on the market. Many doctors will tell you this is a perfectly fine substitute if you have a deficiency. If you can’t tell by the name, cyanocobalamin is a combination of cobalt and cyanide. Sound’s scary, right? Well, it might be. If you Google it, you will find websites telling you that the cyanide in cyanocobalamin is nothing to worry about. It’s true that we get small amounts of cyanide (in the form of cyanogenic glycosides) when we take certain herbs or eat certain vegetables. Our bodies deal with this just fine.

However, this is where I stop to ask the perennial question…

What are your objectives?

Is there not a better way? Hasn’t Nature provided us with something that works in harmony with how our bodies are made? Is it even feasible to think we can take supplemental nutrients in their isolated and synthetic forms and truly meet our health goals?

If we took your blood and analyzed the levels of B12 in it – we’d be looking for cobalamin. That is what your body uses as B12. What is the best form of cobalamin? Beef liver. Try it. It’s got the word “live” in it. (NOTE: other limited factors in B12 deficiency include intrinsic factor insufficiency and dysbiosis.)

The point of this article is to get you thinking about what’s natural vs. what’s unnatural and to help you ask yourself how you’d like to meet your nutritional goals. When people come in looking for a multivitamin, I often direct them to beef liver capsules and cod liver oil, taken in combination. Other organ meat supplements can be found from high quality sources – heart, kidney, bone marrow, etc. Everything you need to make a healthy body is contained therein.

Who would have thought?

(Grandma would have.)