I'm A Nutrition Scientist: Here Are My Many Grievances With Most Multivitamins
Did you know that hundreds of millions of Americans fail to meet their nutritional needs for essential micronutrients (i.e., vitamins and minerals we must consume daily) from diet alone? That's most of us. I'm talking about vitamins A, C, D, E, and K and minerals, especially calcium, magnesium, zinc, and potassium. This isn't an exhaustive list, but these are the worst offenders of nutritional inadequacy in our country.
You'll often hear registered dietitians say "food first." While that's true (and semi-obvious), as a proud dietitian and Ph.D. nutrition scientist, I propose we alter that slogan a bit: Food first and then what? Evidence-based science demonstrates that a robustly designed multivitamin/mineral supplement (aka, your daily multi!) is the "then what" that solves nutrient inadequacies.*
6 mistakes many multivitamins make.
Unfortunately, the majority of multivitamin formulations just aren't cutting it—and I say that as a nutrition product formulator myself. Whether intentional or not, many multivitamins make a few common mistakes. Here are some of those "oops" areas:
They are incomplete.
Many multivitamins on the market lack a full array of essential vitamins and minerals. By failing to include a comprehensive number of vitamins (water- and fat-soluble), minerals (including macro- and microminerals), these formulas are not as "multi" (many) as they claim to be.
Additionally, the less robust the multivitamin, the more limited it is in its ability to help address widespread nutrient gaps created by individual differences in dietary patterns and daily variation in intake of foods.
And this might blow your mind, but, as it turns out, there's no official definition of "complete" in the dietary supplement industry. As a result, you have nothing stopping multivitamins out there with 10 or so micronutrients (which is nothing) from marketing themselves as "complete."
So, advocate for your own nutrition: Turn over your bottle, count up the vitamins and minerals, and decide for yourself how "complete" your multi is.
They "fairy dust" nutrients.
Other multivitamins fail you because they include sub-efficacious (ahem, weaksauce) doses of nutrients. I call this unsavory practice "sprinkling" or "fairy dusting" (i.e., inclusion of subpotent ingredients to save money).
Many multivitamins completely exclude or sprinkle vitamin K2, vitamin D3, and a wide range of important minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, iodine, zinc, selenium, copper, manganese, chromium, molybdenum, boron, and silica.
A move some multi brands make is to exclude calcium and iron in their "male" formulas. That's a big miss and deserves its rightful place in the bad science bucket. Why? Because men have daily needs for both of these essential minerals, and the same physiological needs for them that women have. I'm talking about bone density and strength, muscle contraction, red blood cell health, oxygen delivery to cells and tissues, and more.*
Calcium needs (1,000 milligrams each day), for example, are identical between adult men and women ages 19 to 50. We all have bones!
In other cases, gender- and age-specific multivitamins market virtually identical formulas to different groups of people. Multivitamins shouldn't be fractionated in that way unless they are truly differentiated in helpful ways.
They are candy.
Other multi products, meanwhile (I'm looking at you, gummy multivitamins), are laden with sugar and calories while lacking a bunch of essential micronutrients.
Some gummies do use natural sugars instead of high-fructose corn syrup, as well as natural flavors and colors (instead of the synthetic varieties), but nonetheless, this candy nutrition still carries a much longer laundry list of "other ingredients" than a regular multivitamin you swallow (like a capsule).
So, my advice: Swallow your multi if you can.
That said, while gummies are a poor, incomplete option for a multivitamin/mineral supplement, I'm actually pro gummies for other nutrients with high daily nutritional requirements (like calcium), when those gummies are formulated in clean, premium ways, of course.
They don't include a complete B complex.
Another issue: Few multivitamins intentionally build in a complete B complex with premium bioactive and methylated formats of those nutrients, which is too bad because these Bs are involved in critical daily functions throughout the body, including cellular metabolism and energy production, plus the normal synthesis of red blood cells, DNA, and neurotransmitters.* (All pretty darn important!)
If there was ever an opportunity to fold one supplement into another (and save the customer some time and money), it would be to deliver a B complex with all eight essential B vitamins within a multivitamin.
They could be cleaner & more thoughtful.
When I say "thoughtful" here, I mean that multivitamin formulas should consider each ingredient, its form, dose, gentleness, bioavailability, and bioactivity in the body. This would include things like bioactive and methylated B vitamins, chelated minerals, vitamin D3 (not D2), MK-7 form of vitamin K2, and the like.
Meanwhile, "clean" can mean different things to different people, but I'm generally talking about a formula that doesn't have a long "other ingredients" list of unsavory additives, like artificial dyes, colors, sweeteners, and preservatives. Less is (so much) more here. If the product is vegan and free of GMOs, gluten, soy, and dairy, even better.
They are not plant-centric.
Very few multivitamins choose plant-origin, cutting-edge options of key ingredients. For example, almost no multivitamins feature sustainable, organic, vegan, algal vitamin D3 at a useful multivitamin dose (1,000 to 2,000 IU). This algal form is the latest in D3 technology for carnivores and vegans alike.
Even fewer multivitamins take the opportunity to combine micronutrients with key phytonutrients (i.e., plant nutrients) from botanicals, like carotenoids. That's a shame because these ingredients together offer complementary and incremental benefits for health.* Other multi offerings, meanwhile, dust botanicals into their formulas at clinically irrelevant (subpotent) doses or conceal their actual dose in "proprietary blends."
How mbg's new multi addresses these issues.
Now that we know those common multi mistakes (that wasn't an exhaustive list, by the way), what's the answer? At mindbodygreen, we decided to make a better multi. We opted to not only create a stellar multivitamin (that experts are raving about, mind you), but to start a multi revolution. As mindbodygreen's director of scientific affairs, I'm the "rebel" who formulated the multivitamin.
Our multi is truly cutting-edge, featuring all the essential vitamins and minerals and then some (hello, key botanical bioactives) at science-backed doses, because these active ingredients are critical for a wide array of daily health functions—from our immune system and brain to our heart, bones, muscles, skin, eyes, and more.* I'm talking about whole-body relevance.
It's truly comprehensive.
mbg's ultimate multivitamin+ is truly complete. Its comprehensive array of 14 vitamins, 13 minerals, and six botanicals bioactives rivals most multis on the market today. We include all of the water- and fat-soluble vitamins and the full range of macro- and microminerals to provide you with a 33-ingredient complete, high-potency multivitamin for daily and lifelong nutritional support.*
And remember how I said many multivitamins completely exclude or sprinkle nutrients (vitamin K2, vitamin D3, calcium, magnesium, iron, and a slew of other minerals)? We are not one of those brands. You will find all of these micronutrients in ultimate multivitamin+. We don't cut corners.
Furthermore, our multi features diverse and complementary nutrient forms. For example, vitamins K1 and K2, carotenoid and retinol forms of vitamin A, as well as a bouquet of additional phytonutrient carotenoids (lutein, zeaxanthin, and lycopene).
This formula promotes daily nutritional sufficiency for a complete array of essential vitamins and minerals.* And while this is a cornerstone facet of the multi equation, our formula goes beyond filling gaps. Our micro- and phytonutrients collectively support a wide range of health support areas: immune function, cognitive health, cardiovascular wellness, bone density, muscle contraction, beauty care, and even vision.*
It's an easy serving size (just 2 capsules).
When it comes to important daily rituals, ease is everything if you want to sustain your practices over time. Some multivitamin formulas I genuinely admire unfortunately require you to take four, six, or even eight (yes, eight) capsules. I don't really consider that a multivitamin; it's more like a pack of supplements.
At mbg, we were on a mission to innovate and pack all the multi goodness and quality into the smallest serving size possible. And we did. Our two-capsule dose is competitive, given what we're fitting inside and delivering in the formula.
As a result, you receive a complete vitamin and mineral array to mind your nutrient gaps, plus a slew of premium longevity botanicals (glutathione, resveratrol, piperine, lutein, zeaxanthin, lycopene) leveraging all-in-one technology (in just two caps).*
We built a complete B complex.
In this smart multivitamin, we feature a built-in complete, high-potency B complex that delivers the full family of eight B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, biotin, folate, vitamin B12).
Furthermore, we strategically optimized the bioactivity of each B vitamin, including methylation technology for folate and vitamin B12 to have you covered on coenzyme and ATP energy production functions throughout the body (and more).*
Every ingredient is optimized, premium, and clean.
We sourced the best ingredients for each and every ingredient. We care about potency, including science-backed and helpful doses of each nutrient and botanical bioactive. We don't "sprinkle" ingredients, even the costly ones.
What's more, mbg ultimate multivitamin+ cares about gentleness on your stomach, bioavailability in the gut, and bioactivity in the body. To that end, we vetted and selected premium forms of ingredients. For example, since your body prefers vitamin D3 over vitamin D2, we deliver that powerhouse fat-soluble nutrient in the D3 format from its most premium source (organic, vegan algae). With bioactive and methylated B vitamins, meanwhile, our formula supports personal genetic differences in methylation physiology.*
You'll also find chelated minerals (iron, zinc, copper, manganese, chromium, molybdenum, boron) and marine minerals (calcium and magnesium), sunflower oil-derived vitamin E (most vitamin E is sourced from soy), vitamins K1 and K2 (in the MK-7 form), silica from bamboo, and an entourage of botanical bioactives from tomatoes, marigolds, black pepper fruit, and more.
When it comes to the "other" stuff, our excipient profile (i.e., the "other ingredients" list) is intentionally clean, minimal, and vegan. From actives to excipients, it's a clean formula that's vegan, GMO-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, and major food-allergen-free.
We leverage the synergy of botanicals.
In our multi, you'll find a curated assortment of botanicals—glutathione, resveratrol, piperine, lutein, zeaxanthin, and lycopene—at clinically researched doses. Through unique mechanisms, these plant bioactives combat oxidative stress, support cellular resilience and integrity, and promote graceful aging, vitality, and longevity.*
In fact, the first multivitamin to feature Setria® L-glutathione, ours delivers the body's master antioxidant in the form with proven bioavailability per clinical trial research.
It's for all adults.
Last but not least, we intentionally created this multivitamin formula to be gender- and age-inclusive, serving the nutritional needs of women and men of all ages. All adults 18+ are welcome!
Some multivitamins are simply lacking. With mindbodygreen's ultimate multivitamin+, we leverage the latest in multi technology to serve your body well.* We've ushered in the future of multivitamins with this formula, in which comprehensive nutrition and botanical vitality collide.* I hope you'll join us in this multi revolution.
Ashley Jordan Ferira, Ph.D., RDN is Vice President of Scientific Affairs at mindbodygreen. Ashley received her B.A. in Biological Basis of Behavior from the University of Pennsylvania (along with a double minor in Nutrition and Music) and Ph.D. in Foods and Nutrition from the University of Georgia. Her research contributions span vitamin D, cardiometabolic health, bone density, and weight management. Ferira is a nutrition scientist and dietitian with experience in nutrition product innovation and development, scientific affairs, education, communications, and SEO writing for global firms, including Nature Made, Metagenics, Three Ships, and mindbodygreen.
In addition to her mindbodygreen contributions, Ferira is published in Health, Metagenics Institute, American Family Physician, The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, and Osteoporosis International. She has a passion for the translation of evidence-based science into innovative and high-quality products and information that help people lead healthier lives. She is a believer in compassionate, informed, and personalized approaches to nutrition, health care, and wellness. Ashley lives in beautiful Charleston, South Carolina, where she was born and raised. Whether savoring an orchestral performance or delectable meal at a local restaurant, you will find her enjoying Charleston’s cultural and culinary arts with family and friends.