Popping a multivitamin in the morning is like recycling a plastic bottle: No matter how small the task, it's a conscious-clearing baby step in the right direction—or so say some doctors.
It's been long believed that a daily multivitamin helps fill in gaps in your diet (whatever you're not getting in your food, you can get in this pill) and protect you from diseases. That's why 42 percent of American adults take multivitamins on a regular basis, according to the Council for Responsible Nutrition.
Problem is, just like with recycling, you don't see any immediate benefits, so it's hard to know if it's really working. And it may not be in the following four ways.
Multivitamin Mistake #1: It May Not Prevent Diseases.
A long-term, large-scale study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association last fall suggests that these nutrient-packed pills don't prevent heart disease in men. An unrelated study published in JAMA last October found that multivitamins did little to fend off cancer in men older than 50 too. While neither study looked at both genders, it's likely the same holds true for women.
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Multivitamin Mistake #2: Micronutrients May Be Canceling Each Other Out
One reason your multivitamin might be underperforming is that some vitamins and minerals, when consumed at the same time, may compete against each other for absorption in the body, says Jayson Calton, Ph.D., co-author of the new best-selling book Rich Food, Poor Food. “Nearly 90 percent of the 34 common micronutrients found in a multivitamin are affected by micronutrient competition in some way."
Copper and zinc, for example, contend for absorption in the small intestine, according to Harvard researchers. Iron is another major offender, battling with at least 10 other micronutrients. “When researchers study specific nutrients, they'll separate them from a multivitamin and watch them work beautifully on their own, but when you put them all together in a pill, it's all about the competition,” Calton says.
Multivitamin Mistake #3: It Might Be Messing with Your Mechanics
Besides getting short-changed by your multivitamin, taking one may also prohibit your body from functioning at its best. “When key micronutrients don’t get absorbed, the ability of other micronutrients to perform specific functions in the body can be greatly diminished or even eliminated,” Calton warns. Supplement companies are well aware of these pitfalls, but they're not jumping to reform the age-old multivitamin, which is still manufactured the same way it was when it was introduced in the 1930s.
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Multivitamin Mistake #4: This Pill Is Stuck in the Past
“Even though science now understands much more about vitamins than it did back in the early 20th century, the billion-dollar industry may not be ready to admit that their current products don't work,” speculates Calton, who spent six years with his wife, nutritionist Mira Calton, formulating a solution called Anti-Competition Technology. It works by separating competing micronutrients into different formulas to be taken at different times of the day in order to eliminate all of the competitions between them. This revolutionary process may help increase absorption, metabolization, and/or utilization of the individual micronutrients.