Should you take a multivitamin and are they worth the cost? This is what I set out to find when analyzing my own diet and going on an information quest by interviewing multiple supplement companies on multivitamin formulation. After becoming disenchanted with the production of many multivitamins and their seemingly backward formulas that always require supplementing with other formulas to balance the ratios, I thought “there has to be a better way!” So I went straight to the source and talked to the companies who could describe the manufacturing process, send literature and had scientists available.
In my last article on the best and worst multivitamins, I explored the studies in which multivitamins usually do not seem to cause harm, nor do they make a difference. This has lined up with my clinical experience where if you want to see results, you have to target specific vitamins or minerals in the right amounts that the individual is lacking. This also lined up with studies on individual vitamins and minerals that perform very well consistently, like magnesium, vitamin C and certain B-vitamins. Which leads us to the formulation of a multivitamin. When you look at your label, you will see a common pattern that I believe makes them ineffective as a stand-alone supplement, and potentially problematic if you are letting a disgruntled Whole Foods worker pick out numerous vitamin and mineral products for you.
Multivitamin Formulation: Beware of Toxicity
If your multivitamin has a date of manufacture and not an expiration date, you should be skeptical. This could mean that they did not do a solubility test and therefore the product may not be stable. If they do not do clinical testing and strict safety/purity tests, you should be skeptical. If you are taking a multivitamin, you drink shakes that have added vitamins and minerals, and other supplements that contain multiple vitamins and minerals, you could be tripling up on zinc, manganese, selenium, calcium and copper. Add that to your diet and synthetic fat-soluble vitamins, and it could spell toxicity.
How Are Multivitamins Made?
You will find the following processes that are used to make a multivitamin: whole food, naturally derived and modified, synthesized from yeast or fermentation. Typically there isn’t a multivitamin that doesn’t contain some synthesized or “scientifically formulated” nutrients since they cannot be reached to high enough levels from food to hit the target amounts. The majority of “whole food multivitamins” actually use a nutrient rich broth, added synthetic vitamins and the yeast saccharomyces to metabolize and convert them, then use small amounts of fruit or vegetable blends as filler.
The difference is if those forms are in the biologically available and active form. This is where the claims can fall in a gray area. There are certain synthetics like vitamin E and beta-carotene that have performed poorly and at a detriment in studies, whereas L-ascorbic acid has performed very well. Magnesium citrate, malate and glycinate show superior absorption and results versus oxide or carbonate forms. Folic acid may now be questionable due to gene mutations, with methylfolate being the preferred form (very important during pregnancy and for subsequent generations).
Reading the Labels of Multivitamins: How to Make Sense of it All
1. A, D, E, K and C: The fat-soluble vitamins, vitamin A is usually in the form of a beta-carotene mixture. If the source of the beta carotene (like D. Salina) is not mentioned, it is most likely synthetic. The conversation rate to beta carotene to vitamin A may be very poor depending on the BCMO1 gene function. The true form of A is retinol, from foods like egg yolks, fish liver, and animal liver. Vitamin D (D2 is synthetic and not effective) as D3, often in a very low amount. Vitamin E often is synthetic (dl-alpha tocopherol), but may be food based as d-alpha-tocopherol, the biologically active form. Vitamin E actually has eight forms, four tocopherols and four tocotrienols. Multivitamins only utilize one, alpha which is either synthetic (dl) or whole food (d). They also are missing the tocotrienols. Vitamin K is in the K1 form when the K2 form may be the most important one and is lacking in a high percentage of diets. Vitamin C is often a paltry 60mg to prevent scurvy but not nearly enough for optimal health. Studies have consistently found that over 500mg is necessary for benefits in divided doses due to the short half-life of vitamin C.
2. Calcium and Magnesium: Calcium and magnesium should be in the form of citrate, malate or glycinate, which are the most bioavailable. Carbonate and oxide are poorly absorbed and cheaper to produce. But the amounts of minerals are even lower in these formulations than food, with magnesium in many cases needing to be 20-30x higher in many formulas. Calcium however is most likely best coming from calcium-rich food or alfalfa leaf tablets (alfalfa also has iron, copper, zinc, boron, chromium, molybdenum, manganese, potassium, beta carotene and vitamin K). Iodine is needed in a minimum of 150mcg, but it is highly reactive and quick to disperse. Food sources should be sought after, or supplementation of iodine under a health care practitioner should be considered along with selenium, especially if you have hypothyroid or breast cancer.
3. B-vitamins: B-vitamins should be consumed through your food, with an emphasis on a balance of folate, B12, B6 and riboflavin. According to this review, in the May 2005 issue of Carcinogenesis Fenech and his colleagues identified nine key nutrients that may affect genomic integrity in various ways.”when consumed in increasing amounts in food, six of these nutrients (folate, vitamin B12, niacin, vitamin E, retinol, and calcium) are associated with a reduction in DNA damage, whereas three others (riboflavin, pantothenic acid, and biotin) are associated with an increase in DNA damage to the same extent observed with occupational exposure to genotoxic and carcinogenic chemicals. “These observations indicate that nutritional deficiency or excess can cause DNA damage on its own and that the effects are of the same magnitude as that of many common environmental toxicants.”
Increasing one’s calcium intake further enhanced the genome-protective effect of a high-folate diet whereas a high riboflavin intake further exacerbated genome damage associated with a low-folate diet. This is consistent with epidemiologic studies showing that cancer rates tend to be higher among populations that consume more red meat (which is very high in riboflavin), more alcohol (which depletes folate), and fewer vegetables (a rich source of folate).
4. Trace Minerals and Metals: Trace minerals play a major importance in health, and you should seek these out in your diet and your water by using a home reverse osmosis system (the only filtration system that removes fluoride which binds to magnesium, or you can fill up jugs at Whole Foods with this water) and adding Trace Mineral Drops. Certain minerals and metals in formulas may be problematic for people like certain forms of selenium, too much manganese or copper, too much zinc or too much iron.
For example, those with too high of dietary manganese and iron (or too many supplements) nearly doubled the risk to develop Parkinson’s. On the other hand, low manganese may be linked to asthma, low thyroxine, poor fat and carbohydrate metabolism, low bone density and high iron levels. Those with hemochromatosis need to make sure they are not getting iron from supplements. Those with Wilson’s disease need to make sure they are not taking anything with copper and have adequate zinc. So a pill that is one person’s medicine may be another’s poison.
5. Fruit, Vegetable or Herb Blends: Don’t be duped by these. They are small filler, insignificant and used for marketing to make it appear whole food based. Eat fruits, vegetables and herbs.
Vitamin/Mineral Ratios Based on Healthy Cultures
In the book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, Dr. Weston A. Price gathered some very interesting data on nutritional profiles from healthy, indigenous cultures from around the world. He was particularly interested in A, D, calcium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, copper and iodine. Finding this data gave me some incredible insight into understanding possible optimal ratios. Each one listed is the amount multiplied by the western diet.
1. Native Eskimos: 5.4x calcium, 1.5x iron, 7.9x magnesium, 1.8x copper, 49x iodine, 10x vitamin A, 10x vitamin D
2. Indians of Northern Canada: 5.8x calcium, 5.8x phosphorus, 2.7x iron, 4.3x magnesium, 1.5x copper, 8.8x iodine,10x vitamin A, 10x vitamin D
3. High Mountain Swiss: 3.7x Calcium, 2.2x phosphorus, 2.5x magnesium, 3.1x iron, 10x vitamin A, 10x vitamin D
4. Gaelics in the Outer Hebrides: 2.1x calcium, 2.3x phosphorus, 1.3x magnesium, 1x iron, 10x vitamin A, 10x vitamin D
5. Aborigines of Austrailia: 4.6x calcium, 6.2x phosphorus, 17x magnesium, 50.6x iron, 10x vitamin A, 10x vitamin D
6. New Zealand Maori: 6.2x calcium, 6.9 phosphorus, 23.4x magnesium, 58.3x iron, 10x vitamin A, 10x vitamin D
7. Polynesians: 5.6x calcium, 7.2x phosphorus, 28.5x magnesium, 22.4x iron, 10x vitamin A, 10x vitamin D
8. Coastal Indians of Peru: 6.6x calcium, 5.5x phosphorus, 13.6x magnesium, 5.1x for iron, 10x vitamin A, 10x vitamin D
9. Indians of the Andean Mountains of Peru: 5x calcium, 5.5x phosphorus, 13.3x magnesium, 29.3x iron, 10x vitamin A, 10x vitamin D
10. Cattle Tribes of Africa: 7.5x calcium, 8.2x phosphorus, 19.1x magnesium, 16.6x iron, 10x vitamin A, 10x vitamin D
11. Agricultural Tribes of Central Africa: 3.5x calcium, 4.1x phosphorus, 5.4x magnesium, 16.6x iron, vitamin A 10x, 10x vitamin D
“All of the above primitive diets also provided a large increase in water-soluble vitamins (B-complex, vitamin C) over the number provided in the displacing modern diets.” – Dr. Price
SUMMARY OF THE TRADITIONAL DIETS
What can we extrapolate from this sample of diets from around the world? The calcium levels remain fairly constant but higher than our intake, while the magnesium levels can fluctuate dramatically higher or slightly below calcium. But in not one example do you see a 2:1 ratio of calcium to magnesium as the majority of calcium/magnesium supplements often provide, and magnesium in multivitamins is barely present.
Iodine samples were only recorded for a few cultures, however a major increase was seen in each. Iron intake can also go up incredibly high in Australia and New Zealand. While exact amounts were not recorded, b-vitamins and vitamin C were in much higher amounts. The most famous observation was that vitamin A and D remain constant in being ten times higher than the western diet in every single culture. But what else is true? Zero sugar, zero high fructose corn syrup, zero refined vegetable oils (soy, corn, canola, safflower, sunflower), zero refined carbohydrates, zero coffee, low stress and zero medications.
What do the majority of multivitamins lack? Calcium, magnesium, iodine, vitamin C, K2, omega-3 fatty acids, b-vitamins in the active bioavailable form, vitamin E in all eight forms, true vitamin A (not just beta carotene) and enough vitamin D.
Current Deficiencies in Europe
In this study of 17 micronutrients in people’s diets across eight European countries: Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, the United Kingdom and Spain. The results revealed that vitamin D deficiency is the most extreme case, followed by iron, calcium, zinc, B1, B2, B6 and folate. Is this because we have abandoned our traditional diets, and the convenience of western processed food has spread? Also, if this was based on a standardized chart of vitamin and mineral content based on food surveys, they would find much more deviation due to the wide range based on soil and storage before consumption.
How to Make Your Own Multivitamin with Food
In this chart, you will see the foods with the highest amounts of each individual nutrient that you need. This does not mean that other foods that are not included do not count, but that these foods give you the highest amounts you need for optimal health. So you can look at a category and go “oh, I’m not eating any foods with high enough zinc. I need to focus on getting more in my diet.”
The first thing you need to remember when grocery shopping, is the more organic and local your fruits and vegetables, the higher the vitamin levels may be, while mineral content will vary depending on the region. Second, vine ripened outdoors is better than in greenhouses, so choose foods in season to make sure they are grown outside. Third, the more miles it has traveled to you, the less nutritious it may be.
“Know your soil, know your food.” If minerals are low in the soil, it is low in your food. Here is a map of magnesium and selenium, two common nutrients that vary widely in the US soil. According to the following 1984 paraphrased US government soil concentration document:
Eastern United States: Lower concentrations of some elements (notably, aluminum, barium, calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, and strontium)
Western United States: Greater abundance of heavy metals in the same materials.
Atlantic Coastal Plain: Low concentrations of many elements in soils.
Pacific Northwest: Generally have high concentrations of aluminum, cobalt, iron, scandium, and vanadium, but are low in boron.
Rocky Mountain region have high concentrations of copper, lead, and zinc.
Gulf Coast and Atlantic coast sites of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Main: High mercury concentrations
Florida: Most striking geochemical pattern by having soils that are low in the concentrations of most elements considered in this study.
Using this chart, an understanding of local food and what is in the soil, and the relative ratios of healthy cultures, you can solve most of the vitamin/mineral riddle. Pay special attention to magnesium, zinc, vitamin C, B6, riboflavin, folate and B12 foods and what depletes them, because they are needed for an exceptional amount of biochemical reactions including your neurotransmitters.
|PALEOEDGE MULTIVITAMIN WITH FOOD||STANDARD MULTIVITAMIN|
|Vitamin A: Liver, shellfish, marrow bones, egg yolks, grass-fed butter, cod liver oil, wild salmon oil, fish eggs||Vitamin A often beta carotene (not true vitamin A) and vitamin A acetate. The conversion rate of beta-carotene to vitamin A may be very poor based on the BCOM1 gene. Retinol is the active form of vitamin A.|
|Vitamin C (freshly picked): Persimmons, black currants, citrus, all berries, peppers, spinach, collards, broccoli, poplar buds, (many indigenous cultures got their vitamin C from animal sources including adrenal glands and the inner layer of skin from the norwhal whale)||Vitamin C: 60mg is the standard and way too low. Should be 100% L-ascorbate.|
|Vitamin D: Sun, pastured lard (400 IU per 1 Tbsp.), cod liver oil or wild salmon oil (450IU per 1 Tsp.), marrow bones, wild herring, wild sardines, wild salmon, liver, shellfish, fish eggs, pastured egg yolks||Vitamin sometimes as D2, which is ineffective. If it has D3, it is often too low. Requires A and the minerals in the right ratios. Vitamin D may have 8-12 distinct factors.|
|Vitamin E (tocopherols and tocotrienols): Egg yolks (especially from fertile eggs) grass-fed butter, coconut oil, coconut meat, cocoa butter, barley, nuts, sunflower seeds, avocado, broccoli, spinach, olive oil, grass-fed beef or lamb||Vitamin E often as dl-alpha-tocopherol (synthetic) Should be d-alpha-tocopherol and mixed tocopherols/tocotrienols|
|Vitamin K1: Kale, spinach, collards, beet greens, swiss chard, dandelion greens, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, watercress, arugula, alfalfa leaf||Vitamin K as phytoandione|
|Vitamin K2: Bone marrow, pastured egg yolks, animal testicles (don’t see this one catching on) salivary gland, pancreas (sweet breads), gouda, brie, liver 1x a week and pastured butter||Vitamin K2 is not included in most multivitamins and is very important for preventing calcification, bone loss, and certain cancers|
|B1 Thiamin: Heart, poultry, pork. beef, fish, sourdough bread||B1: Thiamin HCL|
|B2 Riboflavin: Liver, meat, fish, dairy, pastured eggs, mushrooms, watercress, spinach, wild dandelion greens, wild nettles, wild chickweed, wild lambs quarters, sourdough bread. Poor T3/T4 thyroid status affects riboflavin. Support T3 and T4 with specific nutrients like magnesium, zinc and selenium.||B2: Should be Riboflavin 5′-Phosphate|
|B3 Niacin: Liver, fish, chicken, turkey, pork, sourdough bread||B3: Niacinamide|
|B5 Pantothenic Acid: Liver, muscle meats, egg yolks, wild fish, avocados, yogurt, shiitake mushrooms, cauliflower, broccoli, sweet potato, sourdough bread||B5: Calcium Pantothenate|
|B6 Pyridoxine: (animal foods are much better absorbed) Tuna (raw is higher, depleted in canned), liver (raw is higher), turkey and chicken giblets, wild salmon, cod, halibut, pork chops, beef steak, elk, buffalo, dulse, unfiltered beer, bananas, pistachios, avocados, spinach, potatoes, egg yolks, broccoli, cauliflower||B6 best as pyridoxal-5-phosphate. This may be one of the most important nutrients in your body for your neurotransmitters and the homocysteine cycle. It also gives evidence of how important fish and organ meats are in our diet.|
|B7 Biotin: Egg yolks, liver, yeast in unfiltered fermented drinks, wild salmon, brewer’s yeast||B7|
|B9 Folate: Chicken liver and other types of liver, romaine, spinach, beets, broccoli, mustard greens, asparagus, collard greens, parsley, arugula, cauliflower, artichokes, oranges, chickpeas (hummus), basil (pesto), celery, cucumber, certain strains of probiotics produce it in the gut||B9 should be methylfolate. Avoid folic acid which is the wrong synthetic form and may block folate receptors|
|B12 Cobalamin: Liver, heart, all meat and seafood||B12 should be methylcobalamin, not cyanocobalamin|
|B17 Nitrilosides: Apricot kernel oil, wild blackberry, wild chokecherry, wild lingonberry, wild elderberry, wild raspberry, wild loganberry (but not domesticated berries) macadamia nuts, flax, buckwheat||Not added to multivitamins, interesting potential|
|Choline: Pastured eggs, liver, fish eggs, fish, bone marrow, cauliflower||Choline: Most formulas do not contain choline, and 90% of people may not be getting enough.|
|PABA: Liver, mushrooms, spinach, yeast, probiotic foods including sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, yogurt (your own bacteria can manufacture it)||PABA: Most formulas do not contain PABA|
|Calcium: Seafood with bones like canned sardines or salmon, alfalfa leaf, bok choy, kale, swiss chard, collard greens, almonds, dandelion greens, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, parsley, watercress, dairy, Gerolsteiner Mineral Water||Often as Calcium Carbonate: Poorly absorbed and should be consumed from food.|
|Phosphorus: Meat and diary||Phosphorus|
|Iodine: Bladderwrack, wakame, kombu, dulse, nori, seafood, Needs will vary greatly depending on thyroid health and exposure to bromides, fluoride, and chlorine. Selenium foods need to be in proportion to iodine.||Iodine: May react and destroy other nutrients in the formula. Very important to get at least 150 mcg up to 1 mg depending on your needs. Hypothyroidism and breast cancer especially. May be too low if not eating seafood or seaweed 2-3x a week.|
|Selenium: Oysters, octopus, lobster, shrimp, mussels, squid, salmon, crab, tuna, heart, brewer’s yeast, sunflower seeds, sourdough bread, crimini and shiitake mushrooms, pastured eggs (land foods vary greatly depending on the soil) *What about Brazil nuts? Brazil nuts are prone to mycotoxins, more specifically ones that produce aflatoxin as described in this study and this study. I am currently looking for a company that sells them in sealed bags that have been tested free of mycotoxins.||Selenium: Best as the organic form selenomethionine. Inorganic forms as sodium selenite and selenate may not be as beneficial. Very important to get for thyroid health, cancer prevention, and immunity. If you have a low seafood diet or low selenium in the soil, supplementation may be needed.|
|Magnesium: Kelp, whole grain sourdough bread, hemp seeds, almonds, cashews, buckwheat, Brazil nuts, dulse, filberts, peanuts, walnuts, rye, purslane, alfalfa leaf, cilantro, burdock root, chickweed, dandelion, nettles. (Amounts vary greatly depending on the soil)||Magnesium usually as magnesium oxide which only 4% is absorbed, and is absurdly low in formulas. Should be citrate, malate or glycinate, and the target is in the 400-600mg range.|
|Potassium: Swiss chard, avocado, spinach, crimini mushrooms, broccoli, alfalfa leaf, Brussels sprouts, celery, romaine lettuce, potatoes, wild salmon, banana, sweet potato, kale, tomato sauce, apples, meat||Potassium often omitted. Important for healthy blood pressure.|
|Zinc: Oysters, crab, lobster, liver, heart, beef, lamb, sprouted pumpkin seeds||Zinc often as zinc oxide, poorly absorbed. Zinc is crucial to get an adequate intake of. If you avoid red meat and shellfish, or eat a fair amount of grains, a zinc deficiency is very common.|
|Copper: Oysters, liver, kale, mushrooms, cashews, chickpeas, avocados, goat cheese, alfalfa leaf||Copper: Too much copper may occur from the diet, medications and a multivitamin. Serves an important function in relation to zinc.|
|Iron (Heme): Liver red meat, egg yolks, seafood||Iron: Can be constipating in multivitamins|
|Manganese: Mussels, clams, hemp seeds, hazelnuts, pine nuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, almonds, walnuts, chickpeas, spinach, kale, black tea, blueberries, chocolate, and lentils.||Manganese: Plenty could be consumed from food, and too much manganese (over 11mg) acts as a neurotoxin creating Parkinson’s or schizophrenia-like behavior. The herbicide glyphosate used on GMO foods promotes toxic accumulation of manganese in the brainstem, linked to Parkinson’s. Deficiencies are also linked to asthma, low thyroxin, poor carbohydrate and fat metabolism, high iron levels, and low bone density. You also need more if you have the SOD2 gene mutation. Avoiding shellfish, nuts, chickpeas, and berries could lead to a deficiency.|
|Chromium: Brewer’s yeast, broccoli, beef, egg yolks, turkey, alfalfa leaf||Chromium: May be toxic in inorganic forms, however very important to get enough dietarily due to low amounts. Those with blood sugar issues may need more chromium.|
|Beta-Carotene, Lutein, Lycopene: Egg yolks, sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, squash, broccoli, pumpkin, asparagus, tomatoes, apples, watermelon, grapefruit, papaya, apricots, sweet red peppers (fat increases the absorption of these carotenoids dramatically).||Synthetic beta-carotene and other synthetic carotenoids are often used and found to be detrimental or ineffective in studies|
|Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Fish, pastured eggs, cod liver oil, wild salmon oil||Not added to multivitamins. Very important.|
|Prebiotics: Tigernuts, dandelion greens, radicchio, garlic, onions, bananas, yacon syrup
Probiotics: Raw sauerkraut, raw beet kraut, raw kimchi, raw milk, yogurt, kefir, facto-fermented pickles
|Not added to multivitamins, if so very unlikely they are alive|
|CoQ10: Heart, liver||Not added, if so very small minuscule amounts|
|Vanadium: Mushrooms, shellfish, beer, wine, parsley, dill||Not added to multivitamins usually|
|Lithium: Dairy, meat, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, mushrooms, Trace Mineral Research Concentrace Drops and Gerolsteiner Mineral Water.||Not added to multivitamins. Up to 83% may be deficient (According to Dr. Yasko). Lithium plays a role in B12 transport, and high B12 supplementation can deplete lithium leading to high blood levels and low absorption.|
|Silicon: Drinking water depending on location, beer (one study showed that silicon in beer is readily bioavailable because it is solubilized during the mashing process of beer making), string beans, sourdough bread, alfalfa leaf||Not added to multivitamins|
|Boron and Molybdenum: Boron is found in raisins, wine, dates, prunes, cherries, apples, broccoli, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, parsley and honey. Molybdenum is found in beef liver, pork, lamb, lentils, green beans, eggs, sunflower seeds, cucumbers, alfalfa leaf and grains.||Boron plays a role in healthy testosterone in males and bone building in both sexes. Molybdenum plays an important role in lowering sulfites and should be provided in the 75mg range.|
|Nickel: Found in lots of fruits, grains, nuts and fish||Unnecessary in a multivitamin|
|Tin: Found in lots of vegetables and fruits||Unnecessary in a multivitamin|
The amounts required for each individual will vary based on your genetic history, constitution, geographical location and lifestyle habits. Multivitamins are designed with the same formula for everyone. See the problem? The 5 most common habits that will deplete your vitamins and minerals are:
1) Sugar, high fructose corn syrup and refined carbohydrates (depletes b-vitamins, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, and chromium)
2) Stress (mainly depletes all the b-vitamins, zinc, vitamin C, magnesium, calcium and others)
3) Medications (the most common depletions are b-vitamins, calcium, magnesium, zinc, melatonin, and CoQ10)
4) Coffee (more than 1 cup per day can deplete b-vitamins, magnesium and pulls calcium from the bones leading to higher calcium levels in the blood)
5) Alcohol (more than 2 drinks per day may lead to depletions of B1, folate, magnesium and vitamin C)
The way you discover what you may need more of or less of is determined by the feedback of your body. Therefore the most optimal supplement plan while following this diet would include: virgin cod liver oil or wild salmon oil for A, D and omega-3 fatty acids daily (both are actually foods not supplements), magnesium daily, b-vitamins as needed and vitamin C.
Other nutrients may be necessary based on your needs, and it is best to see www.swansonhealthcenter.com to determine that. This is to serve as a base program.
DESIGNING YOUR OWN MULTIVITAMIN
Why You May Need to Supplement with Magnesium
“Magnesium is required for the body to produce and store energy. Without magnesium, there is no energy, no movement, no life. It is that simple.” –Carolyn Dean MD, ND
A government study found 68-75 percent of people in the U.S. may be magnesium deficient based on dietary surveys, however, I would hypothesize this number may be way higher based the varying degrees of magnesium content in food, the health problems in the U.S. and the fact that true magnesium status is hard to determine. The top soil and water is severely deficient in magnesium throughout the US. If it is not in the soil or water, it is not in the food. When I lived in Washington state, a young farmer I knew attempted to get all his nutrients from his diversified organic farm and he still ended up with a severe magnesium deficiency.
- You have muscle spasms, twitches, restless leg or muscle pain
- You have insomnia or trouble sleeping
- You have migraines or headaches
- Anxiety or depression
- You are a teenager
- You take calcium, iron or zinc without adequate magnesium
- You take medications or antibiotics
- Asthma, PCOS, Raynaud’s, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s. dementia, diabetes, IBS, Crohn’s or colitis
- Poor memory or concentration
- You have low testosterone
- You do high-intensity or endurance exercise or mental work
- High C-Reactive Protein, high blood pressure and other risk factors for heart disease or stroke
- Exposure to toxins and heavy metals
- You eat non-fermented/soaked grains
- You crave sugar, carbohydrates, chocolate or salt
- You drink fluoridated water (majority of homes and restaurants) or use toothpaste with fluoride (fluoride binds to magnesium). I highly recommend using reverse osmosis water and adding Trace Mineral Drops.
- You swim in pools treated with chlorine
- You drink sodas (phosphoric acid binds to magnesium)
- You experience constipation or diarrhea
- Cold extremities
- You are experiencing infertility or are already pregnant (calcium is also very important)
What form of magnesium should I take?
See the article How Have We Become So Magnesium Deficient?
How much magnesium should you take? This will depend on your weight, health needs, exercise habits, age, and pregnancy. The formula is 6-8mg multiplied by your weight in kilograms (divide your weight by 2.2). Make sure your calcium intake is not more than magnesium, your vitamin D levels are between 35-50 ng/ml and you are getting foods rich in K2. Can be taken on an empty stomach. If you have impaired kidney function or kidney failure, you have to be careful with magnesium supplementation.
Why You Need to Focus on B-Vitamin Rich Food
Folate is among the nutrients most often cited as critical to genomic stability. Controlled intervention study data published in the July 1998 issue of Carcinogenesis and the April 2001 issue of Mutation Research indicate that a folate intake greater than 200 mcg/day is required for chromosomal stability.
If you are homozygous MTHFR 677 or heterozygous MTHFR 1298 combined with a heterozygous MTHFR 677, you required higher amounts of folate (600mcg in studies) to maintain healthy homocysteine (inflammation) levels. If you are pregnant, you want to make sure to get adequate folate daily (not folic acid!) to prevent birth defects. In fact, everyone needs to be hitting a 200-400 mcg folate daily for healthy DNA and cancer prevention. If you can’t hit the targets of folate daily with food, supplementation of the right form becomes necessary.
A study done in 1990 found that in the United States that of 11,658 people, 91% of women and 71% percent of men were deficient in vitamin B6 using the RDA. An epidemiological study done from Tufts University in 2008 found that substantial proportions that do consume reach the RDA had inadequate B6 status. B6 is needed to activate magnesium.
Who are most at risk for B6 and folate deficiency besides those not eating their leafy greens? Females at reproductive age, women taking birth control (current and past), teenagers, alcoholics, those taking pyridoxine-inactivating drugs (anticonvulsants), non-Hispanic blacks and people over the age of 65. In other words, a HUGE chunk of the population.
Here is a guide to see if you are low in b-vitamins:
- You don’t eat eggs, liver or other organ meats, fish or enough fresh leafy greens
- You are homozygous for MTHFR, MTRR or MTR gene mutation (find out through Nutrition Genome)
- You are low in B12
- You eat sugar or refined carbohydrates (even occasionally)
- You drink more than 5 oz. of alcohol per day (alcohol depletes folate, vitamin C and B1, and a rat study from the 70’s showed that extra vitamin C and B1 gave complete protection against acetaldehyde, a metabolite of alcohol that is a toxin)
- You have high stress
- You have had miscarriages
- You are pregnant or trying to get pregnant
- You drink coffee
- You have fatigue
- Low stomach acid
- You smoke or are around smokers
- Poor memory or concentration
- Anxiety or depression
- You drink from plastic bottles or cups (a study found mice that were exposed to BPA gave birth to mutated offspring that were at a greater risk for diabetes, obesity, and cancer as adults. But when pregnant mice were fed vitamin B12 and folate, the epigenetic effect of the BPA was counteracted)
- High intensity exercise or mental work
- High homocysteine levels
- Migraines or headaches
- Trouble focusing
- You take medications or antibiotics (the majority deplete b-vitamins)
- You take NSAID’s like aspirin (deplete folate and vitamin C)
After doing many genetic reports at Nutrition Genome, I have found that B-complex with methylated B12 and folate are needed in many cases due to a higher needed to normalize enzymatic function and lower inflammation. In these cases, I recommend B-Complex Plus.
Why You May Need to Supplement with Zinc
Zinc deficiency may affect 2 billion people, due to low levels in our food, the major drop in shellfish and liver consumption, and the high intake of grains that block zinc absorption. Zinc is concentrated in the brain, adrenals, eyes and prostate, and disorders of these usually are connected to zinc deficiency. If you are older, diabetic, vegetarian, have low stomach acid or take certain medications, you are even more at risk.
Over 300 enzymes require zinc for their activation and nearly 2000 transcription factors require zinc for gene expression. Growth retardation, hypogonadism in males, rough skin, impaired immunity, neurosensory disorder and cognitive impairment are some of the clinical manifestations of zinc deficiency. I recommend Zinc Picolinate.
Vitamin A and D increase zinc absorption. “A sustained rise in plasma zinc concentration (and therefore its potential bioavailability) was obtained only when the zinc was augmented with both vitamins A and D (in RDA concentrations).” Another reason cod liver oil is awesome.
Why You May Need to Supplement with Vitamin C
Vitamin C is produced endogenously most animals, and millions of years ago our ancestors had the same ability. A gene mutation occurred most likely during climate change and migration to the tropics, and now we are only missing the last step to create ascorbic acid. During the Paleolithic period, it is estimated that we consumed 400mg daily.
The current RDA is only 60mg, which is ridiculous. It is deceptively hard to get enough of it from your diet. For example, if you don’t have access to freshly picked high vitamin C foods, you are not getting enough vitamin C. Vitamin C depletes rapidly post-harvest, and varies greatly based on climate, location, whether it is vine ripened or harvested early, shipping by plane or unrefrigerated trucks, exposed to light, oxygen and moisture. How much do you think is left?
Grapefruits grown in coastal areas of California generally contain more vitamin C than fruit grown in desert areas of California and Arizona, and studies have shown vitamin C content can vary from 19.3mg to 71.5mg in strawberries. If you purchase non-organic fruits and vegetables, you should know that nitrogen fertilizers used at high rates tend to decrease the vitamin C content. Losses are enhanced by extended storage, higher temperatures, low relative humidity, physical damage, and chilling injury.
Vegetables such as asparagus, broccoli, and green beans typically lose 50 percent of their vitamin C before they reach the produce counter. Potatoes lose as much as 78 percent of their vitamin C during long-term storage at 36 degrees. This is all before calculating the depleting effects of stress, sugar, alcohol, exposure to pollution and excessive exercise on your own vitamin C reservoir. You can read more details about vitamin C in this article. You may need to supplement if you experience any of these:
- Adrenal fatigue
- High stress
- Anxiety or depression
- You eat sugar or refined carbs (sugar and vitamin C use the same transport mechanism, which excess sugar overides and causes deficiency)
- You have high blood sugar
- You think there is vitamin C in orange juice (depletes rapidly and most of the C is in the inner flesh)
- You eat most of your food cooked
- You eat processed deli meats that contain nitrates
- Seasonal allergies, asthma
- High intensity exercise or mental work
- High blood pressure, high Lp(a) and other risks for heart disease or stroke
- Poor gums
- You drink more than 2 drinks of alcohol a day (alcohol depletes vitamin C and B1, and a rat study from the 70’s showed that extra vitamin C and B1 gave complete protection against acetaldehyde, a metabolite of alcohol that is a toxin)
- You smoke or are around smokers
- Exposure to toxins and pollution (environmental toxins such as DDT, petroleum products, carbon monoxide, exposure to heavy metals such as lead, mercury or cadmium deplete vitamin C rapidly. Adequate vitamin C intake removes toxic metals such as aluminum, mercury, and lead from the body)
- Poor eye health
- Bad skin
- Bruise easily
- Fatigue and exhaustion
- Bladder infections
- H. Pylori
- You take antibiotics (Sulfa antibiotics increase elimination of vitamin C from the body by two to three times the normal rate, which increases risk of another infection)
- You take NSAID’s like Aspirin (all deplete folate and vitamin C)
If you have access to freshly picked vitamin C rich foods, by all means, utilize these sources and you may not need supplementation. When choosing a vitamin C supplement, it should be 100 percent L-ascorbate, fully reduced and non-GMO.
Regardless of what you may have read on mom blogs, vitamin C in the form of L-ascorbic acid is the natural form that the body recognizes, animals synthesize on their own, and produced all the positive findings in studies. It is the form of vitamin C found in food.
D-ascorbic acid, however, is not the natural form of vitamin C, and therefore should be avoided in certain supplements (possibly in many multivitamins). I also don’t recommend whole food supplement sources of vitamin C from acerola cherry, rose hips or camu camu due to the quick depletion of vitamin C post-harvest, processing, temperature changes during shipping and storage. Companies are welcome to change my mind on this with testing showing the vitamin C amounts after weeks and months on the shelf.
How much vitamin C should you take? If you can reach this with freshly picked plants, adrenal glands or the inner wall of whale stomachs, you are ahead of the game.
If supplementing, the ranges can vary dramatically for each individual when it comes to vitamin C. On average, I have seen 500mg-3000mg split into 2-3 doses as a good target for many people. Less is needed during times of relaxation, and more during a time of illness, injury, stress, and extreme physical or mental exertion.
See the article Is Vitamin C the Most Important Vitamin for You? for vitamin C recommendations.
Why You May Need Cod Liver Oil or Fish Oil
- You are low in vitamin A, D and omega-3 fatty acids
- Inflammation/oxidative stress
- You don’t eat seafood 2-3x a week, liver once a week or eggs 5-7 days a week
- Have horrible cramps or hormonal imbalances (female)
- Low immunity
- High protein diet
- You have acne or poor skin
- You have poor dental health
- You have low immunity
- You have high stress
- You have heart disease risk factors
- You have low testosterone
- You have osteoporosis
- You do high-intensity exercise, endurance or mental exercise
- Poor eye health
- Need cancer prevention
- You are trying to get pregnant or pregnant
I recommend using cod liver oil during the fall and winter, then stopping and using vitamin D or getting it from the sun for the spring and summer. This evens out the vitamin A and D in the body. Or use fish oil year round.
Do You Still Need Extra Minerals with a Good Diet?
YES. The best way to up your mineral content is to use Concentrace Trace Mineral Drops in your water daily.
Recipes for Liver and Heart
If you are new to organ meats and want to get higher amounts of folate and B12 from your diet, I recommend trying these recipes to ease into it:
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free. I always enjoy hearing from you.