The Truth Behind Centrum: Supplement Or Chemical Cocktail?

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Written by Josh Gitalis,  a sweet, sweet member of Meghan Telpner’s Superhero Posse. He is our  Superhero Evidence Based Clinical Nutritionist. Read Josh’s bio here.

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?

Share this with your peeps! Today’s tweetable: Centrum: supplement or chemical cocktail?

Refernces:

1. http://www.responsibletechnology.org/health-risks

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.

21 Responses to “The Truth Behind Centrum: Supplement Or Chemical Cocktail?”

  1. Shannon C

    #

    I do indeed – 2 a day. I take one specifically for vegetarians and was so happy not to see sugar or gelatin as ingredients. I took it to my doctor recently to make sure I was getting enough of what I needed…but now I’m questioning!

    Reply
  2. Jill

    #

    I take my vitamins separately now. You can get higher dosages if taken separately and also it prevent vitamins from interacting together like calcium and iron. One last thing, the notations (numbers) you put in the post do they refer to articles/studies ? Can they be included in the post ?

    Reply
    • Josh

      #

      Our apologies Jill. They should have been included.

      Refernces:

      1. http://www.responsibletechnology.org/health-risks

      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.

      Reply
    • Meghan Telpner

      #

      Thanks for pointing that out, Jill (and to Josh for promptly adding them in!) I updated the post so it includes them all now, too.

      Reply
  3. michelle

    #

    Wow. I definitely need to check the label on my multivitamin. Thanks for the eye-opening info!

    Reply
  4. Christa

    #

    No wonder taking vitamins has always made me ill. I haven’t taken them for a long time… I assume now that I am supplementing enough in food, but I do need to be educated on what I am still missing out on, that’s for sure.

    Thanks for the breakdown Josh!

    Reply
  5. Amanda

    #

    Josh & Meghan – thanks for the article! I try to buy any supplements from a “health” store (i.e. coop, whole foods, etc.), but the selection can be pretty overwhelming. If possible, are there a handful of brands/sources of a good general multi-vitamins that you would trust and/or recommend?

    Reply
    • Meghan Telpner

      #

      It’s pretty tricky Amanda as each brand has some products that are really great and some that are not so great. Our supplement cupboard at home has about 20 different brands. Typically AOR, Seroyal and Metagenics have some great products but again- they also have products with some questionable ingredients in them. Always great- when investing in them, to ask for help.

      Reply
    • Nancy

      #

      Amanda, there is a book by Ted Alosio called “Blood Never Lies” he gives a great breakdown on what kind of supplements are the best. Private Label brands have the most high quality nutrients, and most of the time they aren’t on store shelves. I have done a lot of research in regards to high quality brands and have 2 or three that I like, feel free to msg me if you would like some assistance, radiantlivingintl@gmail.com

      Reply
  6. Erika

    #

    A great article! Thanks for bringing this topic up!

    Vitamins are a HUGE problem for people with food allergies. I take all my vitamins/minerals separately and there are very few I take on a regular basis. Nearly all pressed vitamins have some kind of starch binder, even the otherwise healthy ones. If you are allergic to corn (like I am) the words on your vitamins to look for are (besides actually saying “corn starch” or similar): Methylcellulose, Microcrystaline cellulose, Modified cellulose gum. These are nearly always corn.

    Also, the vast majority of vitamin C is made from corn derivatives. So if your vitamins are making you nauseated for no reason and they’re a “healthy” brand, it might be the corn.

    I don’t know if it’s okay to mention a specific brand here, but one of the few brands I know without any corn is Douglas Laboratories.

    Reply
  7. Erin

    #

    I get my vitamins and minerals from the food that I eat ;) And I track what I am eating occasionally on a program that lets me know what I’m getting out of my food (which confirms that I’m getting plenty of vitamins and minerals).

    Reply
  8. Andrea

    #

    When it comes to supplements, I find that you get what you pay for and also have to read labels. Centrum is cheap. Awhile back on her podcast Jillian Michaels said that she stopped endorsing supplements because many of the good quality supplements that she would otherwise endorse are ones that she found that many people can’t afford. Cheap ones tend to be poor quality. The feeling I got was that she didn’t feel comfortable selling expensive products that people can’t afford to use and that she prefers to promote healthy lifestyle methods that are accessible to all. I’ve also heard podcasts in which she prioritizes which nutrients to spend money on in supplement form, and which to get completely from food sources. This stuff just makes sense.

    As I’ve said in comments to Meghan’s blog posts before, I often choose my supplements based on my diet and activity level. For example, I’m less likely to take a multi in the summer when I’m eating a lot of fresh, local, organic food. The only supplements I don’t compromise on are my fish oils/essential fatty acids (though when I include more fish in my diet my ADD symptoms are mild to nonexistent) and my flax or evening primrose oil (as prescribed in Meghan’s Hormone Balance eBook). I’m lucky that I know the good brands, some of which are endorsed by my favourite integrative medicine practitioner, and where the best prices in Toronto are.

    Reply
  9. Corry Whitteker

    #

    Can you suggest a brand that is safe to take? I’m looking for a multivitamin :)

    Reply
  10. ahmad nur

    #

    Please am little bit confused about which medicine will cure my addition from my bad taken of diazapam, which I was off for almost three weeks now! Please I need a guide on how to be recovered from this bad feelings and trouble! Thanks

    Reply
    • Meghan Telpner

      #

      Hi Ahmad – for individual assessments, we suggest you consult one-on-one with a nutritionist who can take your health history and come up with a plan based on your specific needs and assessments. Feel free to email us if you would like a recommendation for a nutritionist!

      Reply
  11. Jane

    #

    I have been taking centrum multi vitamins for the last few days and feel unwell as I don’t usually take a supplement. I thought I’d check the bottle to see if they use preservatives as I often feel unwell if I have eaten prepackaged food. Seeing the ingredients on bottle worried me so I googled which brought me to this page. I chose to buy centrum as I have seen the adds and their packaging looks like the right choice of vitamin to take. Won’t be taking anymore! I will read back of label next time I feel I need a supplement.

    Reply
  12. Leslie

    #

    Yes it seems with the severely declining health of our world the nutrition industry is not cashing in. I have cleaned up our diet to very limited processed foods and go mostly fresh and organic.
    To fill in the gabs I trust the formulations of Dr. Lindsey Duncan ND, CN and formulator specializing in cleansing. Every morning I start the day with warm water with fresh lemon and organic sulfur. For breakfast I pour a blend of wild harvested mangosteen, acai, goji and noni mixed with raw Mila (chia seeds). Mid day I blend daily greens with energy blend and alkaline water for a boost. In the evening I consume coral calcium and daily cleanse before bed. Cleanse, balance, build is his philosophy and it works. xo

    Reply
  13. cristina

    #

    Yes you are right there are lots of multivitamin tablets present in the market and some of the are causing side effect to our health. So, we do not choice any vitamin tablet with out the prescription of doctor. Thanks for posting this blog.

    Reply
    • Meghan Telpner

      #

      Too often Centrum is the brand doctor’s are recommended. That’s the problem. Your best bet to get the best nutritional supplements is to seek the guidance of someone with nutritional training in supplements.

      Reply
  14. Richard

    #

    I take the chewable form of Centrum multi-vitamins, so I guess the problem with absorption doesn’t apply to me. Chewable Centrum also has the lowest dosage of each individual vitamin, (about 100% DV), I could find, which I thought was good because I’ve read about vitamin overdose.
    It does have the other bad things like BHT, aspartame, dyes etc..
    Oh well.
    I have tried to find out if Centrum chewables were made, (wholly or in part), in China but have not been able to.

    Reply
    • Meghan Telpner

      #

      You definitely don’t want supplements with the lowest dose. Most conventional supplements are already of the lowest dose. You might be better off eating an apple and some salad than the chewable centrums- then at least you’re not getting the dyes, BHT and Aspartame.

      Reply

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