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Things to know before purchasing vitamins

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Depending upon who you listen to, there is a vitamin to either cure – or ward off – most anything. However, three new studies in The Annals of Internal Medicine indicate vitamins don’t protect against heart disease (or recurrence of heart attack if you’ve recently suffered cardiac arrest).

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According to the article, Face the Facts, by Julia Savacool, published in the March/April 2014 issue of weightwatchers magazine, there are 10 things one should know about vitamins before perusing the aisles and making a selection. These are noted below:

  1. Losers need multi-vitamins: “It is hard to get all the recommended nutrients on less than 1,600 calories a day,” says Heather Manigeri, a Pittsburgh dietitian. It is recommended that everyone should take a multivitamin – even those losing – as an insurance policy for good health.
  2. No one is watching: Because the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) classifies multi-vitamins as dietary supplements, not pharmaceuticals, manufacturers are not required to have FDA approval to sell them. As a result, no one is checking to determine if the bottle contains what it claims it does.
  3. Less is more: Some megavitamins are packed with super doses of nutrients (in excess of 5,000% of the Daily Value). These can be harmful: An overdose of Vitamin A may cause birth defects. Many super-charged multivitamins include herbs like nettle, which can negatively interact with blood pressure medicine.
  4. Cash in on calcium: If you are not getting enough calcium through food, you should take two doses of 500 mg or less, with meals, on a daily basis. (The body can only absorb 500 mg of calcium at one time.)
  5. Fillers are friendly: Since the vitamin part of a capsule takes up a tiny bit of space, scientists mix in extras, such as maltodextrine, to give multivitamins proper bulk. “They (fillers) assist in separating vitamins and minerals from each other to prevent them from reacting to the capsule. Plus, they help the tablet dissolve once ingested,” explains Kantha Shelke, PhD, spokesperson for the Institute of Food Technologies.
  6. Multivitamins have muscle: Cut back on vitamin- and mineral-fortified foods if you’re taking multivitamins. This will help keep you out of the danger zone noted in item 3 above.
  7. Timing matters, time does not: Experts agree that there is nothing magic about the time of day one takes a multivitamin. Taking it with food, however, is important as it will slow its passage through the body, thereby increasing absorption.
  8. Store brands are just as good, if not better: The watchdog group, ConsumerLab, tested 42 multivitamins and found only 2/3 (28) had the amount of nutrients advertised, disintegrated quickly and were not tainted with lead. Five that passed the test were:
  1. 21st Century Multivitamin & Multimineral Supplement (21st Century)
  2. Kirkland Signature Daily Multi (Costco)
  3. One A Day Women’s (Bayer)
  4. One Daily women’s Multivitamin (Walgreen’s)
  5. Up & Up Women’s Daily Multivitamin (Target)
  1. Storage is key: “Vitamins are highly reactive compounds,” says Shelke. “Heat, moisture and light can cause them to break down and lose potency.” Therefore, store them in a cool, dry place like a kitchen cabinet as opposed to the bathroom or on a window sill.
  2. Gummy vitamins have calories: Some people are inclined to pop gummy vitamins like candy. “Vitamin chews can be harmful when you have more than the recommended dosage in a day,” says Mangieri. Besides that, gummy vitamins have between 10 – 50 calories each. Just so you know, if you took a capsule vitamin instead, you could have a couple of Hershey’s Kisses a little later in the day. (Just saying!)
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