That satisfying feeling of taking a tasty multivitamin gummy is a common experience for most people worldwide and provides the added comfort of being beneficial to your health. However, the conflicting scientific studies and mass marketing schemes resulted in the extensive controversy surrounding the validity of health benefits that regular multivitamin supplementation can provide for the human body. The McGill Tribune (2020) defines vitamins as micronutrients, essential chemical compounds that the body can acquire through food. Following a healthy diet plan can provide the body with all the necessary micronutrients, except for Vitamin D, which you can obtain through regular multivitamin supplementation or in small amounts from direct sunlight. If you deprive your body of these essential vitamins, it can cause the development of deficiencies which lead to countless health complications (The McGill Tribune, 2020). Despite knowing and understanding the crucial importance of needing these micronutrients in the body, many still question whether a regular intake of multivitamin supplements acts as a tasty placebo or whether or not they are beneficial or detrimental to the human body.
What Is a Multivitamin?
According to Healthline (2021), a multivitamin is a supplement that contains multiple vitamins, micronutrients, minerals and other ingredients. Multivitamin supplements can improve your health, reduce the risk of chronic diseases and even compensate for poor diet and eating habits (Healthline, 2021). You can purchase any multivitamin supplement in various forms, from capsules, powders, solid tablets, chewable gummies and even in liquid form. According to data gathered by Reader’s Digest Canada (2022), the 13 essential vitamins the human body needs are vitamins A, C, D, E, K and B vitamins: Thiamine (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Niacin (B3), Pantothenic acid (B5), Pyroxidine (B6), Biotin (B7), Folate (B9) and Cobalamin (B12). MedlinePlus (2015) adds that the human body also requires 15 minerals to remain healthy alongside the necessary vitamin intake; these minerals include calcium, chloride, cobalt, copper, fluoride, iodine, iron, and magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sodium, sulphur and zinc. Most of these minerals produce essential hormones and enzymes, maintain nerve and organ functions and boost immunity in the body; your body also needs the minerals for growth, maintenance, regulation of bodily processes and reproduction in females.
Most people receive the necessary amount of vitamins, minerals and micronutrients by consuming various foods. In certain circumstances, medical health professionals, such as your doctor, will prescribe a multivitamin supplement when you cannot receive it naturally due to health issues or conditions (MedlinePlus, 2015). Any multivitamin supplement should provide the human body with these essential minerals, vitamins and micronutrients in varying amounts (Healthline, 2021); they also often contain other ingredients such as amino and fatty acids and herbs.
You should remain cautious when purchasing a multivitamin supplement because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate most multivitamin supplements as strictly as available prescription drugs. In many cases, a multivitamin supplement could contain higher or lower doses of a particular nutrient that differs from what the manufacturer states on the label (Healthline, 2021). Furthermore, some multivitamin supplements could contain ingredients that interact negatively with certain medications, occasionally with a lethal outcome. You should consult your healthcare provider before starting a new multivitamin supplement regime.
How Multivitamins Get Made
According to Precision Nutrition (2022), both multivitamin supplements and prescription drugs can come in artificial or natural variants. Most multivitamin supplements produced today are synthetic. Natural multivitamin supplements pose challenges as not all natural ingredients are healthy for the human body and potentially lethal in some instances.
According to Precision Nutrition (2022), the manufacturing of multivitamin supplements uses six categories of micronutrients:
- Natural source
- Nature-identical synthetic
- Strictly synthetic
- Food cultured
- Food based
- Bacterial fermentation
The manufacturing and production process of each micronutrient category differs as follows:
Natural source micronutrients come primarily from vegetable, mineral and animal sources; these natural source ingredients require extensive processing and refinement to extract the micronutrients and transform them into a useable form. Vitamin D multivitamin supplements come from extensive extracting and processing of fish liver oils; vegetable oils undergo substantial extraction and refinement to draw out the Vitamin E contained within them (Precision Nutrition, 2022).
Despite their title, natural multivitamins only require 10% of the plant-derived ingredients to qualify as natural; the remaining 90% of ingredients used during production could fall under the synthetic category. Vitamin E tocopherols come from extracting and refining vegetable oils (Precision Nutrition, 2022). Soybeans, usually a common choice due to their low cost of production, are a fine example of this:
- The soybeans undergo a temperance process crushed
- Precipitation removes the proteins
- The resultant oil gets distilled and refined to become bottled vegetable oil
- Any remaining materials get solubilised to remove any excess carbohydrates
- The remaining lecithin and waxes undergo extraction to become a Vitamin E solvent
Natural alpha-tocopherol consists of a single isomer, and consuming additional isomers will decrease its bioavailability; synthetic alpha-tocopherol combines eight isomers. Another example is Vitamin D3; the manufacturing process begins with extracting 7-dehydrocholesterol from wool oil, which becomes cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) when exposed to ultraviolet light (Precision Nutrition, 2022).
Nature-identical synthetic micronutrients get solely manufactured and produced in a lab setting. As their name suggests, nature-identical synthetic ingredients have an identical molecular structure to the same nutrients that naturally occur in nature. Manufacturers generally prefer natural-identical synthetic ingredients due to their cost-effective production combined with the growing scarcity of natural resources (Precision Nutrition, 2022).
Most standard multivitamin supplements available on the market today fall into the nature-identical synthetic category. Vitamin C is a prime example as most Vitamin C manufactured today is synthetic and primarily comes out of China. Vitamin C is a weak acid, and many supplements come in salt forms to decrease acidity. The most popular form of synthesised Vitamin C is called ascorbic acid, which has the exact molecular structure as the natural form of Vitamin C. The Chinese developed a method to produce synthetic Vitamin C using two-step fermentation in the early 1960s (Precision Nutrition, 2022).
Strictly synthetic micronutrients are manufactured and produced in a lab setting; however, unlike their nature-identical synthetic counterparts, their molecular structure is vastly different from those found in nature. Synthetic multivitamins may share similar chemical constituents; however, they retain a different shape; this matters as many of the enzymes found in the human body only pair effectively with vitamins and micronutrients that share the same form. Dumping concentrated synthetic nutrients into the body can backfire without an appropriate delivery system (Precision Nutrition, 2022).
Strictly synthetic micronutrients for multivitamin supplement use include petroleum, acetylene gas and coal tar. These substances undergo extensive chemical manipulations designed to duplicate the molecular structure of the isolated micronutrient or vitamin. An example of this chemical manipulation is the production of Vitamin B1. Hydrochloric acid is added to crystalline coal tar to induce precipitation, after which it undergoes fermentation, thermal manipulation, and other steps until it becomes synthetic Vitamin B1. Producing natural Vitamin B1 differs as the food or plant source containing Vitamin B1 gets harvested and undergoes a cleaning and refining process. After refinement, it goes into a vat where it mixes with water and then faces filtration to remove any fibre, which leaves behind the natural extract of Vitamin B1 (Precision Nutrition, 2022).
Food cultured micronutrients for multivitamin supplement use undergo the same process used to create cultured foods like kefir, miso, sauerkraut and yoghurt. The manufacturing process involves growing nature supplements in algae or yeast, allowing natural culturing to create micronutrients and increase their bioavailability. Sometimes manufacturing involves adding raw materials such as minerals and synthetic nutrients to the culture where they concentrate inside the cells. The cultures then get harvested, ruptured and turned into a multivitamin supplement. Manufacturers sometimes combine food cultured micronutrients with synthetic nutrients to increase their potency since micronutrients cultured in food retain a low potency level (Precision Nutrition, 2022).
Food-based micronutrients for multivitamin supplement use undergo a process whereby natural and synthetic micronutrients react to extracts containing vegetable proteins. This reaction causes the final product to become useable for multivitamin supplementation. This process differs from food cultured production as the nutrients do not grow into a whole food product. Manufacturers avoid using extracts and concentrates from whole food sources as they have a limited shelf life, fluctuating nutrient levels, sensitivity to heat, light and oxygen sensitivity, and a low overall nutrient potency level (Precision Nutrition, 2022).
Bacterial fermentation for multivitamin supplement use includes micronutrients produced by genetically altering bacteria to produce micronutrient byproducts. Some of these include amino acids, riboflavin (fermentation of ribose), menaquinone (Vitamin K2) and ergocalciferol (Vitamin D2). Cyanocobalamin (Vitamin B12) requires a fermentation process to create as its naturally occurring counterpart is melatonin combined with bacterial metabolic activity. Similarly, ergosterol is turned into viosterol by ultraviolet light and then converted into ergocalciferol (vitamin D2). This extensive fermentation process constitutes bacterial fermentation (Precision Nutrition, 2022).
According to Unilab (2019), the daily consumption of multivitamin supplements acts as a bridge to provide the vitamins and minerals you cannot receive through your daily diet. The human body requires a range of nutrients and vitamins to function efficiently, and most people do not follow a healthy balanced diet to receive these essential micronutrients regularly.
Following a regular multivitamin supplement regime also provides several benefits to your body:
Boosted Energy Levels
Your body must work harder to perform basic tasks when it fails to receive enough vitamins; this can result in fatigue and other more severe health issues if left unchecked. Regular consumption of a multivitamin supplement can mitigate this lack of energy and boost your immune system to prevent severe health conditions from developing in your body.
According to PubMed (2011), multivitamin supplementation could improve your general wellbeing and reduce negative mood symptoms in the body. The brain requires sufficient vitamins and minerals to function effectively and regulate emotions and moods. Therefore following a regular multivitamin supplement regime will enhance your mood.
Reduces stress and anxiety
Regular multivitamin supplementation can significantly reduce anxiety and stress levels in the body. For example, the body uses Vitamin B variants to convert food sources into energy to ensure the body’s nervous system functions efficiently and produces stress hormones. Following a regular multivitamin supplement regime can replenish your body’s energy supply and help reduce stress and anxiety.
Reinforced Short-Term Memory
Unilab (2019) states that Vitamin B variants help to support and reinforce short-term memory functioning in the body. A recent Australian study showed that older participants who took Vitamin B12 supplements performed better in memory tests than those who did not take any multivitamin supplements.
Maintained Muscle Strength
Free radicals in the human body remain responsible for muscle ageing and related problems; however, following a regular multivitamin supplement regime can keep the free radicals in check and delay any damaging effects.
TespoVitamins () concludes that multivitamins are a daily guarantee to provide your body with the essential vitamins, minerals and micronutrients; much like an insurance policy, it can act as a safety net to mitigate what your body does not receive from your daily diet.
Multivitamin Tablets Vs Multivitamin Gummies:
While most research shows that following a regular multivitamin supplement regime can provide significant health benefits, the reality is that taking pills of any kind is not usually an enjoyable experience. WebMD (2021) states that most multivitamin tablets taste bad, smell weird and are often difficult to swallow. In contrast, chewable multivitamin gummies often have fruity flavours and a candy-like taste that is pleasant to the tastebuds. In light of the above, multivitamin gummies are perfect for children, adults or seniors who have difficulty swallowing traditional multivitamin tablets (Healthline, 2021).
According to WMMC Health (2022), both multivitamin tablets and multivitamin gummies have several pros and cons related to consumption and supplementation:
- The design of multivitamin tablets allows for easier absorption into the body
- Multivitamin tablets have no additional colouring, flavouring or sugar additives
- Multivitamin tablets come in clear does, which makes them easier to regulate in your supplement regime
- Multivitamin tablets are often difficult to swallow
- Multivitamin tablets can cause indigestion if taken without food
- Multivitamin tablets often have unpleasant tastes (such as chalk or iron)
- Multivitamin gummies are chewable for easier consumption
- Multivitamin gummies come in a wide variety of flavours
- Multivitamin gummies are pleasant to consume
- Multivitamin gummies often do not contain the listed amount of micronutrients
- Multivitamin gummies come with the temptation of overconsumption due to their pleasant taste
- Multivitamin gummies may contain additional flavourings, colourants, sugars and sugar alcohols
Multivitamin tablets and multivitamin gummies both come with pros and cons; ultimately, you should consult your primary healthcare provider for professional advice on which options are best for you based on the micronutrients that your body requires (WMMC Health, 2022).
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