People take multivitamins because they are supposedly healthy. While I regularly prescribe vitamins and supplements for specific reasons, I do not recommend that everybody take a multivitamin. Moreover, I have been shocked at the poor quality of the ingredients in many children’s multivitamins. Children have such delicate, developing neurological systems that it is imperative that if you are giving them vitamins, they must be high quality.
Below is the ingredients list for a common multivitamin found at many natural food stores:
In case you want a little more information on the above mentioned vitamins:
- Vitamin A: There is no toxicity associated with the natural form of beta-carotene or mixed carotenoids. Retinyl palmitate is the synthetically made active form and may negatively affect bone density. Furthermore, Vitamin A toxicity associated with long-term elevated doses can lead to liver damage.
- Folate: Typically found in vitamins and fortified foods as the synthetic form Folic Acid. The safe upper limit of folic acid in children 4-8 is 400 mcg daily. Most children’s vitamins contain 400mcg of folic acid so if your child is eating many fortified foods, then he or she may be getting more than the recommended amount of synthetic folic acid. Folate, which is found in food sources, has no “upper limit.” Also, there are as many as 14% of Caucasian people and 21% of Hispanic people who have a gene mutation that does not allow them to convert Folate to the active Methyl-Folate (known as an MTHFR mutation). In these people, it is important to only give vitamins with Methyl-Folate and not the synthetic Folic Acid. Ask your physician about testing for this gene mutation.
- Vitamin B12: Typically found in supplements as the inactive form Cyanocobalamin, which is the Cobalamin (Vit B12) joined to a cyanide group. Cyanide is a poisonous substance that rarely causes toxicity when given with B12. However, it could possibly cause problems if the person does not have sufficient amounts of the antioxidant glutathione, which is responsible for metabolizing the cyanide group. Only 1% of Cyanocobalamin converts to the active form of B12. Hydroxycobolamin is another inactive form of B12 that has no toxicity associated with it. Methylcobalamin is the active form of Vitamin B12 and is significantly more bioavailable. It has no toxicity associated with it, however over-supplementing with Methylcobalamin may decrease your body’s own natural production.
Now, here is the ingredients list for a high-quality, physician-grade multivitamin:
The physician grade vitamin is admittedly a lot more expensive than the retail brand and I know this can be cost prohibitive for long-term use. I like to follow the age-old wisdom:
“There is no replacement for healthy food.”
Ensure that your child is getting adequate nutrients from high-quality, healthy food rich in fresh fruits and vegetables. If you have an excessively picky eater or other health concern, a multivitamin might be a good idea. Talk with your naturopathic physician about which vitamin might be the right fit for you.
For more information about multivitamins, including multivitamin recommendations see Skip the Centrum! (A Guide to a Good Multivitamin)