Written by Josh Gitalis, clinical nutritionist and Functional Medicine Specialist.
One of the most popular supplements on the market is the multi-vitamin Centrum. What many people don’t realize is that this multi-vitamin is probably doing more harm than good. Is Centrum a vitamin supplement of synthetic chemical cocktail? (Tweet it!)
A Few Centrum Facts:
- Centrum is a product produced by the company Pfizer, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world.
- The dosages of most of the nutrients in Centrum are negligible and not even close to therapeutic levels.
- The forms that the nutrients are provided in are the cheapest and the least absorbable forms.
- Supplements that come in tablet form are often hard to digest and contain binders and fillers (more on this below).
- Water-soluble nutrients (vitamin C and the B-vitamins) are either used or excreted within about 4 hours. Thus, a one-a-day multi is completely useless and a sure sign that it is of poor quality.
The Ingredients In Centrum:
- Calcium Carbonate This is the least absorbable forms of calcium on the market. A very small percentage is actually absorbed.
- Ferrous Fumarate This form of iron is incredibly constipating.
- Pregelatinized Corn Starch This is used as a binder to hold all of the ingredients together. It most likely a genetically modified corn which presents a number of problems for sensitive people.(1)
- DL-Alpha Tocopherol This is vitamin E and they are using two forms. The “D” form which is natural and the “L” Form which is synthetic. The “L” form is used to “water-down” the more expensive more bioactive “D” form.
- BHT Butylated hydroxyanisole has been shown to be toxic to the liver, thyroid, kidney, lungs, and affecting blood coagulation.(2) BHT can act as a tumour promoter.(3)
- FD&C Yellow No. 6 Aluminum Lake Why is there food colouring in a health supplement?
- Gelatin Vegetarians watch out!
- Hydrogenated Palm Oil Hydrogenating any oil turns the oil rancid and makes it into a strong free radical. Free radicals promote cancer and heart disease.
- Nickelous Sulfate and Tin I have never come across any nutrition book discussing a nickel or tin deficiency. Have you? We most likely don’t need to supplement it.
- Sodium Benzoate A preservative that may cause organ toxicity.(4)
- Talc Has been shown to cause cancer. (5,6,7)
- Sodium Aluminosilicate Used as a food additive for its anti caking effect.
One of my rules when shopping for nutritional supplements is to never buy supplements in a drug store. Centrum is only available in drug stores and is advertised as the “#1-recommended doctor multivitamin” (doctors receive no more than 40 hours of nutrition training). When it comes to a multi-vitamin I recommend going to a health food store and talking to to a trained health practitioner in the supplements department about a good-quality multi-vitamin.
Tips For Choosing A Multi-Vitamin:
- Looks for a multi where the dosage is at least 2-3 capsules per day.
- You pay for what you get. The more expensive the multi is, the better the product.
- Don’t buy it if it says “doctor-recomended” on the label or if a pharmaceutical company distributes it.
- Consult with a certified nutritionist to determine the right multi-vitamin for you.
Question of the Day: Do you take a multi-vitamin? How do you make sure you are getting all your required nutrients?
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2. UNEP and OECD, 2,6-di-tert-butyl-p-cresol (BHT) Screening Information Data Set: Initial Assessment Report (Paris: OECD, 2002),http://www.inchem.org/documents/sids/sids/128370.pdf.
3. Baur, A.K. et al., “The lung tumor promoter, butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), causes chronic inflammation in promotion-sensitive BALB/cByJ mice but not in promotion-resistant CXB4 mice,” Toxicology 169, no. 1 (December 2001): 1-15.
4. Harvell, J., M. Bason and H. Maibach. Contact Urticaria and its Mechanisms. Food Chemistry and Toxicology 32(2): 103-112. 1994. (Table 2: Substances identified as capable of causing contact urticaria).
5.National Toxicology Program. “Toxicology and carcinogenesis studies of talc (GAS No 14807-96-6) in F344/N rats and B6C3F, mice (Inhalation studies).” Technical Report Series No. 421. September 1993.
6. Harlow BL, Cramer DW, Bell DA, Welch WR. “Perineal exposure to talc and ovarian cancer risk.” Obstetrics & Gynecology, 80: 19-26, 1992.
7. Hollinger MA. “Pulmonary toxicity of inhaled and intravenous talc.” Toxicology Letters, 52:121-127, 1990.