Caution When Taking Vitamins & Minerals

Since government inspectors rarely check nutrition labels, many vitamin/mineral supplements contain too little or too much of the active ingredient, are contaminated with pesticides or heavy metals (like arsenic, cadmium or lead), or aren’t properly absorbed by the body.

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See which supplements hold true to what their labels promise.

The Rundown

ConsumerLab.com, an independent evaluator of nutritional and vitamin/mineral supplements, recently tested more than 500 products in laboratories throughout the country to determine if their ingredients matched what was listed on the label. Products also were tested for contamination and their ability to dissolve in the body. Among them, these were the best choices in vitamins and minerals:

Best Multivitamin/Mineral Supplement

Most people use multivitamins and minerals as nutritional reinforcements to compensate for unhealthy eating habits and gaps in their diet. Of the 27 products tested, nine failed. The most common problems were related to vitamin A. Some of the products contained more than 150% of the amount listed on the label.

Excessive vitamin A can cause headache, anemia and bone and liver damage. Other multivitamin formulas contained lower-than-listed levels of beta carotene and folic acid, an essential nutrient for preventing birth defects.

Reliable products included 1) Geritol Complete, 2) Life Essentials Dietary Supplement, 3) Nutrilite Daily Multivitamin and Multimineral Dietary Supplement, and 4) Ocuvite Zinc with Key Antioxidants Vitamin and Mineral Supplement.

Best B Vitamin Supplement

The eight B vitamins are involved in all aspects of metabolism, but your body can’t produce them. B vitamins are available only through food or supplements. Some supplements contain a single B vitamin, while others contain all eight. Of the 21 products tested, nine listed doses on their labels that were in excess of the safe upper limit (UL) for vitamin B-3 (niacin), as established by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies.

High doses can be taken under a doctor’s supervision to safely lower cholesterol, but people who take a B-complex supplement that contains 35 mg of niacin or more may experience side effects, such as facial flushing and skin tingling. At very high doses, niacin can cause liver damage.

Reliable products included 1) Nature Made Balanced B-150 B-Complex Supplement Time Released, 2) Nutrilite Natural B Complex Dietary Supplement, 3) Stresstabs High Potency B-Complex with Antioxidants C & E & Folic Acid + Zinc Dietary Supplement and 4) Vitamin World B-100 Ultra B-Complex, 100 mg.

Best Vitamin C Supplement

Vitamin C is an antioxidant that may boost immune function, reduce cataracts and other eye diseases and protect against cancer. Of the 26 products tested, one failed to dissolve properly and three didn’t contain enough vitamin C.

Reliable products included 1) Kirkland Signature Vitamin C with Rose Hips, 1000 mg; 2) Nature Made Vitamin C, 1000 mg; 3) Nature’s Bounty Natural Vitamin C, 1000 mg; and 4) Nutrilite Bio C Plus, 250 mg.

Best Vitamin E Supplement

The amount of vitamin E needed for daily nutrition is easily obtained from foods (nuts, grains, oils, etc.). Higher doses are thought to be beneficial in preventing and/or treating prostate and other cancers, as well as Alzheimer’s disease. Of the 28 products tested, two had less vitamin E than listed on the label, and one product labeled as “natural” contained synthetic vitamin E. When it comes to labels, natural vitamin E (listed as d-alpha-tocopherol) works more efficiently in the body than the synthetic dl form.

Reliable products include 1) Brite-Life Natural Vitamin E, 400 IU; 2) Carlson E-Gems Vitamin E, 400 IU; 3) Solgar Natural Vitamin E, 400 IU; and 4) Twinlab E-400 Caps, 100% Natural, 400 IU.

Best Calcium Supplement

Most people take this mineral to strengthen their bones, but studies suggest that it also may reduce the risk for colon polyps.

Of the 35 products tested, four contained less calcium than the amount listed on the label. Reliable products include 1) Citracal Ultradense Calcium Citrate, 200 mg; 2) GNC Calcimate Plus 800, 200 mg; 3) Nature’s Bounty Calcium Citrate, 200 mg; and 4) Puritan’s Pride Calcium Citrate, 200 mg.

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