For PEAK DAILY HEALTH, an antioxidant-carotene-rich multi provides essential nutrients for energy and endurance, optimal blood sugar and blood pressure, immune support and emotional wellbeing, shiny hair and robust skin. This ensures the body has ample amounts of necessary antioxidant vitamins and minerals in highly absorbable forms for long-term prevention as well. We can get macro-nutrients–protein, fats, starch and fiber–from a well-balanced diet that contains a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean sources of protein. But depleted modern soils and the processed food industry leave foods badly lacking in vitamins and minerals, the essential micro-nutrients. Average meals may meet the low RDA minimums for these powerhouse nutrients, but rarely supply ample amounts for peak daily health.
In addition, some people have special nutrition needs–either because of reduced absorption or because their bodies require higher amounts of nutrients–that cannot be met through a food diet alone. A comprehensive multivitamin and mineral formula serves as daily insurance. It offers richer amounts of essential nutrients to keep the body functioning optimally, despite dietary deficiencies or external stressors that increase nutritional requirements.
Nutrition experts agree that due to the poor state of the current food supply sources from over-processing and refining, and because few Americans eat the recommended amount of nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables, a daily multiple vitamin-mineral formulation brings numerous benefits. The average American diet is composed of 60% processed food. The USDA says nutrient levels in food have declined significantly due to mechanized farming practices.1 The director of the Antioxidants Research Laboratory at Tufts University stated, “Taking a multivitamin will help fill in the substantial gaps that are consistently apparent in national surveys of intake. Over two-thirds, or 66%, of Americans fail to meet the Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) for vitamins D, E, and K and for the minerals magnesium and potassium. About 40% fall short of the EAR for vitamins A and C. In large part, these nutrient inadequacies are due to common dietary patterns that continue to fall short of the recommended consumption of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. So, while we try get people to change their eating behavior, taking a multivitamin seems a prudent action.”2
Researchers at Harvard University Medical School reviewed more than 30 years of scientific papers regarding vitamins in relation to chronic diseases. They noted, “recent evidence has shown that suboptimal levels of vitamins, even well above those causing deficiency syndromes, are associated with increased risk of chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, cancer and osteoporosis.” 2 This means that even vitamin intakes that prevent overt deficiency are not enough; much higher amounts are needed to reduce risks of serious diseases. For peak health, the body needs generous doses. In a clinical commentary, the Harvard reviewers also noted that “a large proportion of the general population has less-than-optimal intakes of a number of vitamins, exposing them to increased disease risk.” 2 The Journal of the American Medical Association reversed a longstanding policy on vitamin supplements in 2000, announcing that it advised all adults to take at least one multivitamin pill each day.1
Everybody has widely varying daily nutrient needs depending on food sources, local soils, individual metabolism and activity level, and the ability to absorb nutrients from food. A good multivitamin should include key nutrients for organ function such as B-complex and manganese; antioxidant activity including carotenes, vitamins C and E, and selenium; adrenal function nutrients notably vitamin B5; and blood sugar support including chromium. We also look for ample nutrients for cardiovascular and digestive health.
Multivitamin formulas are balanced mixtures of essential vitamins and minerals, in correct proportions, ideally in their most absorbable forms. For example, we emphasize magnesium chelate rather than inert oxide.
Antioxidants are natural plant or mineral substances that prevent oxidative damage and help protect all cells and tissues from scavenging free radicals, reduce oxidative stress and cell damage, and decrease harmful lipid peroxides. They include natural carotenes, vitamin C and selenium. Antioxidants work to boost our cells’ own protective glutathione levels, and to enhance the actions of superoxide dismutase and catalase enzymes. These are enzyme molecules that neutralize or block cell damage from superoxide, one of the reactive oxygen species that form in our cells during metabolism and increase with stress. Higher tissue levels of carotenes also protect against environmental oxidative injury. They reduce the risks of many degenerative conditions, including heart disease, several types of cancer, diabetes, cataracts, macular degeneration, arthritis, and skin damage.
Natural carotenes are a group of red, orange, and yellow pigments found in the chloroplasts and chromoplasts of plants including fruits, vegetables, algae, and whole grains. They shield plants from sun-induced free radical damage, providing powerful protection for a lifetime in the sun. Plant carotenoids are water-soluble and do not accumulate in our bodies, so toxicity is almost unheard of. More than five hundred carotenoids are known, some of which convert into active vitamin A in our tissues.
Among key antioxidants, we recommend carotenes only in the natural mixed form which are safest and most effective when derived from food sources. We always prefer using the full range of purely natural mixed carotenoids, including naturally occurring carotene isomers which are all potent antioxidants, alpha-carotene, zeaxanthin, cryptoxanthin and lutein. We will not use any formula with synthetic beta-carotene which has been shown to be relatively ineffective and potentially unsafe.
Carotenes, along with lutein and other antioxidants, help protect all cells and tissues including the eyes from scavenging free radicals, reduce oxidative stress and cell damage, and decrease harmful lipid peroxides. They boost each cell’s own protective glutathione levels, and enhance the actions of superoxide dismutase and catalase enzymes. These are enzymes that neutralize or block cell damage from superoxide, a major one of the reactive oxygen species that form in cells during metabolism and increase with stress. Higher tissue levels of carotenes are protective against many degenerative conditions, including heart disease, several types of cancer, diabetes, cataracts, macular degeneration, arthritis, and skin damage.
Vitamin C is another crucial antioxidant for peak daily health. Vitamin C shields the body against lipid peroxidation, which is damage to essential fats in cell membranes, caused by free radicals and reactive oxygen species. These can form during normal metabolism and through exposure to environmental toxins and pollutants, and from oxidative protein damage. In addition, vitamin C helps the regeneration of other antioxidants such as vitamin E.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble nutrient that is critical for the formation of collagen, the main structural protein in connective tissue, cartilage and tendons. It is necessary for skin tone and elasticity, bone strength, joint health, and for wound healing. Vitamin C is also essential for the adrenal and thyroid glands to make their hormones. In addition, vitamin C has a crucial role in the health of the inner ear, eye and retina, and the gums. For gingivitis, vitamin C reduces gum bleeding and helps reverse periodontal disease. It also helps with absorption and utilization of iron and folic acid. In all these ways, vitamin C protects tissue vitality, supports energy and tissue repair, helps to stabilize stress hormones, and thus also supports healthy blood sugar balance.
For optimal daily wellness, vitamin C protects cardiovascular health: It nourishes the heart artery endothelium, the linings of arteries, and helps the arteries to dilate to improve coronary blood flow. It can also stabilize peripheral blood vessel linings, to gently reduce high blood pressure and help prevent varicose veins. In smokers, vitamin C reduces the inflammatory marker plasma C-reactive protein by 24%. Because of its potent antioxidant actions, vitamin C is a promising protector against disorders associated with oxidative damage, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, cataracts, macular degeneration, cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis, and for reducing the risk of blood clots, heart attack, and stroke.
Bioflavonoids are plant pigments that naturally occur with vitamin C, and they give fruits and flowers their colors. Flavonoids, as well as vitamin C, were discovered by the biochemist Albert Szent-Gyorgyi who received the Nobel Prize for identifying their benefits. Bioflavonoids are crucial building blocks for collagen, the body’s basic connective tissue protein. They also strengthen the collagen matrix by cross-linking collagen strands to improve capillary integrity. They are crucial for maintaining skin tone, for repair of even minor injuries, and for healing after surgery. For gum health and gingivitis, bioflavonoids help maintain and rebuild healthy gum tissue.
Bioflavonoids actually help to raise vitamin C levels in tissues, which protects all tissues against free radical injury. They are protective against glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and against loss of night vision. Citrus flavonoids including rutin and hesperidin strengthen capillaries so that they allow just the right amounts of fluid and electrolytes to cross into and out of their walls. This means that optimal amounts of nutrients are delivered to tissues and waste is efficiently removed, resulting in healthy fluid balance in tissues. Bioflavonoids help varicose veins, hemorrhoids, and can reduce bruising and calm allergies. In these many ways, bioflavonoids strongly support optimal health.
The vitamin E family is considered by experts to be one of the most potent antioxidants, protecting cell membranes and preventing damage to their enzymes and all other contents within. Without this antioxidant protection, our tissues would be vulnerable to the harmful effects of free radicals, which are rogue molecules that seek out electrons from bodily tissues and cells. In this oxidizing process, tissues are damaged by disruption of their normal structure.
The vitamin E family is made up of a group of eight constituents: each one has specific actions, and they work together in nature to enhance each other’s benefits. Within the two categories, known as tocopherols and tocotrienols, are d-alpha, d-beta, d-gamma and d-delta tocopherols, and alpha, beta, gamma and delta tocotrienols. These eight forms of vitamin E need each other to work effectively, and each of them has important cardiovascular, hormone, immune and antioxidant activity in the body. We recommend only the d-forms of vitamin E. The synthetic dl-type of tocopherols have no health benefits, and they may not even be safe. We caution patients to avoid dl-vitamin E.
For peak daily health and protecting essential organs, the vitamin E family of mixed natural tocopherols and tocotrienols can help in several ways:
- The vitamin E family helps prevent the oxidation of cells and hormones. It protects cell membranes and helpful fats throughout the body, while maintaining the integrity of hormones released by the pituitary and adrenal glands.
- The vitamin E family also recharges the antioxidant vitamin C for further tissue protection, stabilizing cell membranes, and inhibiting platelet clumping, all of which enhance healthy blood flow.
- As a vascular tonic, the vitamin E family works with vitamin C to improve blood flow, prevent clots, and to open blood vessels, all contributing to better perfusion and oxygenation of tissues.
- The vitamin E family helps to prevent tiny clots of red cells or clumps of platelets, and stabilizes blood vessel cell membranes, to enhance healthy blood pressure. The tocotrienol group promotes good blood flow, helps prevent strokes, and stabilizes atherosclerotic plaques, if they do form, so they are less likely to burst or block an artery.
- It helps to maintain cognitive sharpness and mental acuity. The vitamin E family protects brain function: The brain is especially vulnerable to free radical injury because of its high oxygen consumption rate, its abundance of natural fats and lipids that can become oxidized, and its lack of its own innate antioxidants.
- The mixed natural vitamin E family can calm inflammation: The tocotrienols in particular reduce levels of C-reactive protein and cytokines, which cause inflammatory damage to blood vessels and impedes healthy circulation.
- It also improves the functioning of the immune system and assists in the proper expression of DNA.
- The vitamin E family promotes skin healing and supports firm skin tone.
Selenium is a potent antioxidant mineral that also enhances the benefits of the vitamin E family. Selenium is essential for optimal health, as it prevents tissue damage from oxidative causes, it calms autoimmune activity, and supports endocrine function. It is a key mineral for protecting the thyroid from damage and over-stimulation by iodine, and it is needed for optimal hormone function. Selenium also seems to boost a sense of well-being and mood. In combination with vitamin C, E, and carotenes, the mineral selenium significantly diminishes oxidative damage to cholesterol, making it less sticky, and thus reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and blood clots. Selenium has essential roles for the body’s antioxidant defense system: it is a cofactor for the enzymes glutathione peroxidase and catalase. Selenium is a trace mineral found in rich soils; the natural selenomethionine form is common in plants.
The vitamin B complex also has important roles in optimal daily health. This complex includes vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5 and B6. The B vitamins are needed for our bodies to metabolize carbohydrates, proteins, and fats at a steady pace, and to release and use stored energy in food. They also help protein formation. B complex vitamins are essential nutrients for the thyroid and adrenal glands to make their hormones, and for stamina and a lively metabolic rate. Ample tissue levels of the B vitamin group, along with carotenes and selenium, are necessary for stable hormone levels. Steady hormone output, including cortisol, insulin, testosterone and glucagon, helps to reduce damage from stress on the body. B vitamins are water-soluble, which means that our bodies cannot store them, and so we must ingest them daily.
Vitamin B12 is needed for a fully functioning metabolism, and its route of absorption is much more complicated than that of other B-complex vitamins. Due to this, and because it is not found in many foods, low vitamin B12 levels are common. There is a correlation of vitamin B12 deficiency with obesity, insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome. A 2013 study with 976 patients found that vitamin B12 levels were significantly lower in overweight and obese patients than healthy individuals.4
Vitamins B1 and B2 in particular ensure a steady flow of energy-generating carbohydrates from food. Vitamin B3 is used for keeping blood sugar and cholesterol at optimal levels. Vitamin B5 is needed for the adrenals to make cortisol and by the thyroid gland.
Vitamin B6 works together with vitamin B12 and folic acid in several heart protective actions: They reduce homocysteine, a natural waste molecule produced in normal metabolism. If homocysteine builds up, it can damage artery linings, increasing the risk of heart failure, stroke, migraines, macular degeneration, hearing loss, brain neuronal degeneration, and possibly Alzheimer’s disease.
Calcium and magnesium enhance peak daily health, as they are necessary for heart and muscle function, for stable blood pressure, and for building strong bone density. Because of its cardiovascular benefits, calcium enhances exercise capacity, as it is necessary for muscle contraction and healthy heartbeat. These minerals also have relaxing effects and promote sound sleep, which is essential for overnight tissue repair. Calcium and magnesium as citrate and malate mineral complexes affect the Krebs Cycle. This metabolic pathway is how the body releases energy from food, and it is essential for metabolism in all living organisms.
The effects of multivitamins are most often researched in the elderly, but one 2010 study sought to assess the relationship between supplementation and psychological functioning in healthy groups of younger adults. In a randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled study, 215 men aged between 30 and 55 were given either a multivitamin or a placebo for a period of 33 days. The two groups were tested at the beginning and end of the study with a battery of mood, stress and health questionnaires, and with physical and mental tasks. According to the lead on this study, ‘We know that optimum functioning of the central nervous system is dependent on a wide range of micronutrients, and there is a wealth of evidence from epidemiological studies that clearly suggest a relationship between micro-nutrients and psychological functioning.’ Those men who received a multivitamin showed improved mood and mental performance, reduced stress, and less mental tiredness and fatigue.4
A randomized trial published in 2012 in the Journal of the American Medical Association followed nearly 15,000 male physicians, who took a daily multivitamin for over 10 years. The use of a multivitamin resulted in a statistically significant reduction in new cases of chronic illness or cancer after more than a decade of follow-up. This study was presented at the Annual American Association for Cancer Research Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research meeting, to refute older studies that showed ‘large-scale randomized trials testing single or small numbers of higher-dose individual vitamins and minerals for cancer have generally found a lack of effect.’ 6 The 2012 data over-ruled outdated views that multivitamins were not valuable: In fact, antioxidants may reduce cancer and degenerative disorders that are caused by oxidative injury to tissues.
In our clinic, many of our active patients take an antioxidant-rich daily multivitamin blend. An advanced formula offers extra adrenal support and thyroid nourishment, while it provides the nutrients for hormone balance and increased energy. Natural carotenes, vitamin C and bioflavonoids, the vitamin E family and selenium and zinc also boost the immune system and reduce the frequency of colds and flu. We prefer only natural mixed carotenes, and we avoid large doses of animal-source vitamin A for patients over 50, as that can detract from bone density. We select a multi that does not have iron, which allows patients the choice to take or decline extra iron.
Recommendation: A multivitamin formula rich in natural carotenes and antioxidants including selenium, providing: 6,000 IU or more of mixed natural carotenes, selenium 200 mcg., vitamin C 600-900 mg; d-form vitamin E 400 IU, as well as vitamin B5 or pantothenic acid 200-400mg, vitamin B12 400-500 mcg. Take these totals daily, with meals, or as directed by your health care provider.
- Tufts University, Health & Nutrition Letter, “Should You Take a Multivitamin?” September 2015.
- Fletcher RH and Fairfield KM. Vitamins for chronic disease prevention in adults: Scientific Review. JAMA, June 19, 2002; 287:3116-126.
- Incze M. Vitamins and Nutritional Supplements: What Do I Need to Know? JAMA Intern Med. 2019;179(3):460.
- D. Kennedy, Northumbria University. “Multivitamins can add sparkle for healthy young people.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 May 2010.
- Baltaci, Davut, et al. “Association of vitamin B12 with obesity, overweight, insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, and body fat composition; primary care-based study.” Med Glas (Zenica) 10.2 (2013): 203-210.
- Gaziano J, Sesso HD, Christen WG, et al. Multivitamins in the Prevention of Cancer in Men: The Physicians’ Health Study II Randomized Controlled Trial. JAMA, 2012