Vitamin absorption – research before you buy

vitamin shelfRecently, I had opportunity to browse through the vitamin aisle of the grocery store with my wife who wanted to look into prenatal vitamins as part of her pre-preparation.  While comparing vitamin brands, I remembered my discussion with a doctor a while back about vitamin absorption.  This doctor told me not to bother with vitamins unless you know exactly what’s in them, as vitamins are often made of petroleum.  And while these synthetic materials are safe and non-toxic, your body knows the difference between natural vitamins and synthetic vitamins.  So I asked him about Centrum, one of the most popular vitamins I knew at that time.  He told me that if you’re lucky, you’ll be absorbing 30% of the vitamins listed on the label, and your body will reject the rest, becoming a part of premium urine.

fruits and vegetablesIn a way, this make sense… because a pill that contains all the vitamin you can get from multiple fruits and vegetables can’t be cheaper than the produce itself if the pill is made of natural materials (such as fruits and vegetables).  The Centrum multivitamin bottle that has 150 pills can be purchased for $15, which equals out to 10 cents per pill, each of which is supposed to contain all the vitamins we need daily.  I once took a vitamin called ‘Double X’ by Nutrilite, a product made by Amway.I was told the vitamin was created using all natural substances.  Each pill cost about $1 per pill.  I bought the Nutrilite vitamin after seeing. a small demonstration where they put a Double X pill in a cup of water, and you can actually see small plant pieces and seed looking particles expanding in water.  So, in a way, you can see the natural stuff that’s been finely chopped and packed together into the pill.

So, if the multivitamin pill you have at home costs 10 cent per pill, how effective is it?  Can the pill help you live the healthy and long life the package implies?  Maybe? Hopefully?

TropicanaOne of my primary doctors once told me take plenty of vitamin C during my regular checkup.  So I told him I make point to eat some fruits everyday and drink a good amount of orange juice.  He told me that I shouldn’t be drinking orange juice, as it’s not a good source of vitamins nor nutrients. I fought back because I believed in my 100%, not from concentrated only juice choice I make at a premium price.  I usually choose Tropicana lots of pulp OJ for fiber and taste.  In the end, I asked him; ‘So… what kind of orange juice should I drink?’  He said you need to eat the actual fruit to get the benefits.  Straight to the source, eh?  That should be no brainier to anyone.  But I wanted to know which of juice he recommended?  Because while I understand his argument about from the source, what if you don’t want fruit?  I tend to choose juice when I have craving for soda or something sweet, as a healthy alternative.

So there I was, in the grocery store’s vitamin aisle, trying to make a decision on which vitamin I should suggest to my wife who’s also lost in the process.  And just like any shopper does nowadays, I took out my tablet phone and searched brands and effectiveness of vitamin pills.  That’s when I found this incredible list: Comparison of 100 multivitamin brands contains pretty much most of brands you can think of in a list with effectiveness score and ranking. This effectiveness list is produced by a guy who’s been selling vitamins all his career, and he doesn’t seem like he’s promoting any specific brands in his list or article which adds to its credibility for me. One of my friends recommended Nature Made which we were considering until I saw the effectiveness score of 4.3. (out of 10)  In fact, most popular vitamin brands I recognized scored surprisingly low; Centrum (4.6), One A Day (4.5), Nature’s Blend (5.6), Herbalife (5.3).

In fact, most popular vitamin brands I recognized scored surprisingly low

But at least these were not in same group as Kroger and Rite Aid which scored 0.6 and 0.8 respectively.  (And yes, that’s correct score, scoring less than 1.0)  If you buy generic, at least purchase Walgreens brand which scored 3.5.  It seems like GNC is the only popular brand that maintains their brand value/quality with score of 6.8.  The top 9 brands that scored higher than 8.0 (out of 10) were names I never heard before except for one, Nutrilite (Amway).  And maybe those companies are not as popular because they don’t spend as much money in marketing campaigns.  And as I expected, I couldn’t find any of those brands on grocery store shelf.

Rainbow-Light-Prenatal-One-BottleI walked away that night with prenatal vitamins from a curious new brand called ‘Rainbow Light’, which had a rather simple design to it. (They scored 6.4)  This was pretty much the highest scored brand I could find out of the hundreds of bottles.  And I challenge you to see if you can find any of top 20 brands at your grocery store or pharmacy.  I tried and found none.  I’m not sure about you but  the implications of this fact make me sad.  Are we so commercialized that we choose brand names based on ads and not by quality?  I didn’t even know about this until recently, so you’re not alone.

At least, now you know.

If you always wanted some sort of easy guide on how to choose your vitamin, you should keep this list handy: Visit 100 multivitamin brand listing.


This is one of my Misc. Medical section where I share interesting finds that is related to the medical field and health.  If this is your first time here, you should visit secret blog where I share secrets on how to choose and buy X-ray equipment.

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