One vitamin retailer claims “purity, freshness and quality” by shipping a fresh supply of vitamins every 90 days. Another says its product “dissolves in minutes instead of the hour or more that some lazy vitamins take.” Yet another offers “all-day protection” with timed-released vitamin and mineral formulas.
Will the real high-quality vitamin please stand up?
The sale of vitamins and supplements is now a multi-million dollar industry, which means more manufacturers and retailers are competing for your attention. Health claims are rolling out of marketing departments faster than an Olympic sprint. But are some vitamins better than others? Is there a big difference between a cheap multivitamin and an expensive one?
FitnessLink asked Michael Janson, M.D., author of The Vitamin Revolution in Health Care (Arcadia Press), for a few tips.
Janson says there are three categories of vitamins. The first are cheap (usually less than $10), low potency vitamins. These vitamins include brands like Centrum and One-A-Day and can be found in any major grocery store. The tablets are covered with a heavy coating and don’t disintegrate easily, which means the body doesn’t absorb them well. The ingredients are typically the lowest quality of all three types.
Next are health food store or mail order vitamins, such as GNC or Barth’s brands, that are sometimes hypoallergenic. These vitamins, made from better quality ingredients, are a good choice. The tablets aren’t heavily coated so the body absorbs them easily. They often come with a reasonable price tag ($10 – $20).
The third category consists of the pricey brands (more than $20 for a month’s supply) that are usually found in salons or spas. The ingredients are high quality with nothing artificial. They have fancier packaging, more marketing bang for the buck and a name or reputation that backs them.
“In general, both the medium and higher price levels are usually good quality vitamins,” says Janson.
One of the vitamin industries little known secrets is that the majority of better quality vitamins are actually identical products. “Most of the good companies get their raw ingredients from a few major sources,” says Janson. These companies create vitamins and package them under hundreds of different labels. Quality store and mail order brands are often identical to national brands, at half the price.
Hype or good health?
Let’s examine some claims about vitamin supplements more closely. Is shipping that fresh supply of vitamins every 90 days something special? Not necessarily.
“Vitamins are required by law to have an expiration date or code,” says Janson. So it really doesn’t matter how often the vitamins are shipped, as long as you take them all before the expiration date.
What about the time release claim? click to continue