How to Know What Vitamin Brands Work

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When it comes to choosing the best vitamin brand, packages can be deceiving. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn't regulate vitamins and supplements, so you'll have to do your own research. According to the FDA, many of the vitamin products on the market don't actually contain the ingredients and nutrients they claim. Rather than trusting the claims made by manufacturers, let's take a look at results from some independent studies.

Things You'll Need

  • Research, like studies mentioned in this article
  • Nutrition listings on your vitamin packaging
  • Bloodwork analysis from your doctor (recommended)

Evaluate the brands--and yourself

  • Do the research. ConsumerLab.com (paid subscription required) selected brands of vitamins and had them tested in independent laboratories. Of 21 brands of multivitamins tested, only 10 lived up to the claims of their labels. ConsumerLab.com concluded that about half of the products tested listed their ingredients accurately, and half didn't. Of those that fell short, some contained more or less of a vitamin than their label indicated, while others weren't effectively absorbed by the body.

    Among the multivitamins that did pass the test were Centrum Silver, Member's Mark Complete Multi (distributed by Sam's Club), One A Day Women's and Flintstones Complete.

    ConsumerLab rated 1,087 brands. These were among the brands with the highest ratings within their market segments.

    Supplement Brands:

    • Catalogue/Internet Brand: Puritan's Pride
    • Direct Selling (MLM) Brand: Nutrilite
    • Discount/Warehouse Brand: Member's Mark (Sam's Club)
    • Grocery Store Brand: Equate (Albertson's)
    • Healthcare Practitioner Brand: Pure Encapsulations
    • Health Food Store Brand: Barlean's
    • Mass Market Brand: Nature Made
    • Pharmacy Brand: CVS
    • Vitamin Store Brand: Vitamin World

    Supplement Merchants:

    • Catalogue/Internet: Puritan's Pride
    • Direct Sales (MLM): Nutrilite
    • Grocery Store: Trader Joe's
    • Mass Market: Target
    • Online Retailer: iHerb.com
    • Pharmacy: Walgreens
    • Vitamin Store: Vitamin World
    • Warehouse Store: Costco

    They did make some stunning discoveries. Among them was the finding that The Vitamin Shoppe women's vitamin contained 15.3 mg of lead per daily serving. This is a very high quantity.

    Another study led by Lyle MacWilliam, a biochemist and public advocate for the natural healthcare industry, ranked the top 25 multivitamin supplements, selected from more than 1,000 American & Canadian products. His "Comparative Guide to Nutritional Supplements" gauged accuracy in labels and the absorption capacity of the blend of vitamins. His top five are:
    USANA Health Sciences Essentials (U.S.)
    Douglas Laboratories Ultra Preventive X
    Vitamin Research Products Extend Plus
    Source Naturals Life Force Multiple
    Source Natural Elan Vital

    Carefully research your brand of vitamin, and if you're in the market for a new one, evaluate all of the independent evidence.

  • Gauge changes in your health. After two to three months on a good multivitamin brand, you may notice changes in your body. Some of those changes include improved skin tones, more energy and overall feelings of wellness. Also, over a longer period of time, you may notice that you experience fewer common illnesses like colds and stomach viruses due to a boosted immune system.

  • Get a physical. Because a key to good nutrition is balance, the vitamins you take should work well within your body. If you're taking multivitamins and doing other supplementation, you should get a physical. The results of your bloodwork will tell you if you're getting too much of a one vitamin or too little of another. You may need to modify the types of vitamins you're taking or your brand. Getting too much of some vitamins can be just as dangerous as getting too little.

Tips & Warnings

  • Always keep your vitamins where children can't get them. Some supplements in large quantities, such as iron, have been fatal to young children.

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