Why Most Multivitamins Don’t Work and What You Need Instead

whole food vitaminsAround 50% of Americans take multivitamins consistently, while others opt for individual vitamin supplements and one in five turn to herbal supplements to meet their nutritional needs [1].

For the synthetic supplement industry, the sales have been great, exceeding more than $21 billion in 2015 alone.

Unfortunately, the individuals spending this money aren’t reaping the health benefits they desire. The truth is that a synthetic multivitamin simply can’t make up for a poor diet on its own. For real health benefits, vitamins should be consumed via whole foods or through a multivitamin derived from whole food.

The following looks at the science behind synthetic multivitamins and why they don’t work, as well as why a multivitamin derived from whole foods provides considerably more health benefits. Additionally, you’ll find tips on how to choose a high-quality multivitamin created from real food.

Synthetic Multivitamins: What the Studies Say

According to Edgar Miller, M.D. and Lawrence Appel, M.D., researchers at the esteemed John Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD, “vitamins are a waste of money” and “some offer more harm than good” for most people and [2]. In a 2013 study, Miller, Appel, and their coauthors performed various studies before analyzing collected evidence that found daily multivitamins were ineffective at preventing cancer, dementia, and heart disease, as well as other chronic diseases and death. They also analyzed evidence that supplements high in vitamin E could be dangerous and those high in vitamin A (beta-carotene) could actually increase a smokers’ risk of developing lung cancer.

Other studies have determined that synthetic vitamins are frequently made from petrochemicals (a chemical obtained from petroleum, natural gas, coal, or other sources), resulting in a substandard response that doesn’t provide our body with the high-quality vitamins and minerals it needs to function and perform optimally [3].

Research indicates that the process of creating a synthetic multivitamin doesn’t adhere to the metabolic processes that animals and plants use to create them. Multiple studies have deemed synthetic multivitamins to not be as bioavailable, usable, or absorbable as natural multivitamins derived from whole foods [4].


Multivitamins Derived from Whole Foods

In a perfect world, you would eat a diet filled with healthy foods that satisfy all your daily nutritional requirements. Of course, this isn’t always possible, which is why it is important to have a whole food multivitamin on hand that can supplement what your diet is lacking. Brands like New Chapter and Megafood both produces multi-vitamins from whole foods.

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What are Whole Food Vitamins?

Although there is currently not a consistent manufacturing process, whole food multivitamins are typically made entirely from blends of concentrated, dehydrated whole foods, including various fruits and veggies, herbs, and superfoods from farms, gardens, orchards, and even the ocean.

Thanks to being made from whole foods, these vitamins have plenty of extra benefits such as added phytonutrients (plant compounds with health-protecting qualities), co-factors (a non-protein chemical compound that is necessary for a protein’s biological activity to occur), and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals required in small amounts to ensure normal growth, metabolism, and physical well-being. Working together, they form a whole multivitamin, complete with plenty of health benefits that your body can easily recognize, metabolize, and use for what it needs.

It is important to understand that there are some whole vitamins that contain added vitamins and minerals. They are not 100% whole food vitamins and should be avoided when looking for the best multivitamin derived from whole foods to add to your daily routine.

Choosing the Best Multivitamin Derived from Whole Foods

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There are quite a few whole food multivitamins available on the market, which can make it almost impossible to determine which one is best for your specific needs. To narrow down your options and make it easier to make your final decision, keep these tips in mind. Also, be aware the current law says a vitamin marketed as “natural” must only contain 10% natural plant derived ingredients. The rest of the ingredients can be synthetic.

  • Carefully review the multivitamin’s packaging and label for a statement that says something along the lines of “100% whole food multivitamin” or “all ingredients derived from whole foods.”
  • If you are not completely sure the multivitamin you are considering is made entirely from whole foods, take a look at the ingredients. If you see words such as chloride, gluconate, bitartrate, acetate, hydrochloride, succinate, or nitrate, this is a synthetic vitamin. These ingredients are frequently included to improve a nutrient’s stability.
  • Another easy way to know with 100% certainty whether or not a multivitamin is synthetic is by looking at the RDA of each vitamin (Recommended Daily Allowance). If the potency is greater than what you would find in nature, synthetic ingredients have been used. For example, 1000% of RDA of vitamin C per serving.
  • Look for a multivitamin with a long list of ingredients. Unlike packaged foods, where a long list of ingredients is a sign of additives, chemicals, and preservatives, the opposite is true for multivitamins. For example, a synthetic vitamin would simply list vitamin C as ascorbic acid, whereas a whole food vitamin would include something similar to vitamin C complex from citrus fruits, acerola cherries, rose hips, amla berries, or camu camu berries.
  • When possible, select an organic or raw whole food-based multivitamin. Raw foods have been left in their natural state, meaning they have not been exposed to herbicides or pesticides, processed, cooked, microwaved, genetically engineered, or irradiated. Research has proven that organic or raw foods have a higher nutritional value because they have not been exposed to any pesticides or fertilizers [5]. This boosts their production of phytochemicals, which strengthen their ability to fight off bugs and weeds.


If you are one of the countless people who don’t consume enough nutrients in their daily diet, it is time to invest in a high-quality multivitamin derived from whole foods. Use the information above to help you select one that meets your needs.



[1] http://www.healthline.com/health-news/americans-spend-billions-on-vitamins-and-herbs-that-dont-work-031915

Healthline: Americans Spend Billions on Vitamins and Herbs that Don’t Work


[2] http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/stories/vitamin_health_benefits.html

John Hopkins Medicine: Should You Take Your Vitamins?


[3] http://www.newsmax.com/Health/Headline/multivitamins-synthetic-vitamins-supplements-DrDavid-Brownstein/2013/12/19/id/542852/

NewsMax Health: Vitamins Are Wrong, Says Top Doc


[4] https://sunwarrior.com/healthhub/natural-vs-synthetic-vitamins

Sunwarrior.com: Natural vs. Synthetic Vitamins


[5] http://www.prevention.com/food/healthy-eating-tips/top-reasons-choose-organic-foods

Prevention: Top 10 Reasons to Choose Organic Foods

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