It turns out multivitamin supplements aren’t “useless” after all! Who knew!
A placebo-controlled study of 1,732 people who took Centrum Silver once daily for three years showed that it modestly slowed memory and cognition decline.
This effect was strongest among participants with pre-existing cardiovascular disease. The researchers suggested this was likely because these patients are more likely to be on medications that deplete nutrients like B12, selenium, and vitamin C.
What’s even more stunning about these results is that these benefits were delivered by Centrum Silver. Centrum, which is owned by Pfizer, is not generally considered a high-quality supplement by integrative medical experts. A look at Centrum’s ingredients shows that many of the vitamins are synthetic and are present in the least absorbable form. For example, Centrum contains synthetic vitamin E rather than the full range of vitamin E compounds that optimize its beneficial functions. Centrum is also full of other chemicals, including preservatives with known negative health effects such as sodium benzoate and butylated hydroxyanisole.
The point is, using a quality multivitamin would likely deliver even more benefits. Natural vitamin E outperforms synthetic vitamin E in terms of being more bioavailable and being retained in body tissue longer.
Another example is vitamin B12. Most commercially available B12 comes in two forms (although there are in fact a total of five forms of B12): cyanocobalamin and methylcobalamin. Cyanocobalamin is the most popular because it is cheap to produce and has a longer shelf life. Once taken, cyanocobalamin needs to be converted into an active form of the vitamin, methylcobalamin or adenosylcobalamin. The problem is that some patients with the MTHFR mutation cannot properly perform this conversion, so they must take methylcobalamin, which is why many integrative doctors prefer methylcobalamin supplementation. About 10-30 percent of people are affected by this genetic mutation.
There are other issues with Centrum. With one or two exceptions, the nutrients delivered by Centrum are rather paltry: there’s only 60 mg of vitamin C; 3 mg of vitamin B6; 50 mg of magnesium; and 19 mcg of selenium. Better products will deliver many times more nutrients than this, with amounts like 500 mg vitamin C, 37 mg of B6, 200 mg magnesium, and 100 mcg of selenium. Centrum also uses suboptimal versions of magnesium and vitamin A, in addition to vitamin E and B12 mentioned above.
So, if you take a multivitamin with synthetic vitamin E and the cyanocobalamin form of B12, you very well may not be getting the benefits of those vitamins because your body can’t use them.