Believe it or not, vitamin pills have been around for nearly a hundred years. That's enough time for us to learn a lot about how they work, from how they're absorbed to how they act together. It's also plenty of time for more than a few rumors to spread. To separate fact from fiction, we talked to Ritual’s Head of R&D, Dr. Luke Bucci. Geek out with us, below.
Myth: More = better, so look for labels that give you 100% or more of the Daily Value, from vitamin A all the way to zinc.
Fact: Balance is better than more, which can imbalance nutrient functions easily.
You eat, don’t you? Food, that is? And your food has vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients like omega-3s and polyphenols in it, right? Then why would you add a smorgasbord of things you are already good for? Sooner or later something will be out of whack. Take iron, for example. The Daily Value 100% for women is listed as 18 mg per day. But this is for pregnant women. Most other adult women actually need 10-12 mg iron, maximum, to stay healthy. So if you take a multi with 18 mg iron and also eat 10 mg iron daily (the typical amount most women consume through food) you're getting 28 mg. That's enough to inhibit uptake of zinc, copper, manganese and even some magnesium and calcium. Plus, you'll have to use more Vitamin C and Vitamin E in your body to take care of excess iron. It makes more sense to stick to 8 mg of iron and ensure it's from a tolerable, friendly form so you stay sufficient in iron and its essential functions without dragging down other nutrients. That’s balance. That’s good health.
Myth: Food-based ingredients are always the best.
Fact: Food-based ingredients can come with unwanted baggage like herbicides, pesticides, heavy metals and microbes, and more.
In order to make sure food-derived vitamins are free of things like pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, heavy metals and other chemicals, they need to be processed to eliminate as many unwanted compounds as possible. It generally gets rid of the bad stuff, but the heat involved unleashes another hidden problem - nutrients are converted into less active forms. Not only that, but manufacturers often need to add preservatives to prevent them from degrading further. This is why some vitamins are better made from scratch than pulled from foods. Their production can be carefully controlled, and possible contaminants are never there to begin with. All that said, some food-based ingredients, minerals for example, are able to withstand heat, and whenever that’s an alternative, we use it. Our food-derived D3 and E, as well as our fermented omega-3s, MTHF, glycinate in iron are all extracted (purified) and treated gently - without hurting the nutrients.
Myth: It doesn’t matter what form a vitamin is in, they all work the same way in the body.
Fact: They do not all work the same way, not at first.
This myth is like saying that all cars are the same - which is mostly true if you just look at their basic function - getting you from Point A to Point B. But how you get there is the difference. Most current forms of vitamins and minerals in multivitamin supplements have been selected over the last 100 years to be more shelf-stable, take up less room, cost less and still have bioactivity (i.e. - work in the body). In general, they work well enough to have a benefit. But let’s take a close look, a cell’s viewpoint, at different vitamin/mineral forms. Each one has its own story, so let’s use vitamin E as an example. In healthy foods, vitamin E actually is comprised of at least eight different compounds - four tocopherols and four tocotrienols. But by odd quirks of fate, only one of those forms - alpha-tocopherol - is officially recognized as vitamin E for food and supplement labeling. Yet all those other forms, called mixed tocopherols, are how vitamin E is found in healthy foods, and much research has shown eating foods rich in mixed tocopherols have health benefits. Instead of reproducing that vast amount of findings to do clinical studies, modern science uses just one of those forms - alpha-tocopherol. See the problem? At Ritual, we use what nature and healthy foods give us - mixed tocopherols. You get the right ratio of alpha:gamma tocopherols at the right amount that matches benefits from healthy foods.
Myth: I eat a really healthy diet, so I don’t need anything extra.
Fact: Less than 5% of Americans get everything they need from their diet.
Yes, you read right. And that 5% is an average, meaning even those lucky folks are not getting everything every day. That’s how our Daily Values were determined - to get all of us closer to that 5% - every single day. Here’s a classic example: vegetarians and vegans do eat a healthier diet and have better health in many ways than omnivores or meat-and-potato types. But vegan diets have a few flaws that prevent them from being even healthier. One of these is a tendency to produce deficiencies in the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, which are typically obtained through fish and shellfish. Luckily, there’s a vegan form of DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids made from microalgae (it’s what we use in Essential for Women). So now everyone can get their precious omega-3 DHA & EPA and enjoy better health.
Myth: Any extra dosage of a nutrient in your vitamin can’t hurt you; you’ll just pee it out.
Fact: Yes, you’ll pee (or poop) out as much as your body can, but if you go over well-known limits, damage will be done.
For starters, we maintain that taking too much of healthy nutrients is unhealthy primarily because the delicate interplay and balance of vitamins, minerals and fatty acids are upset. Calcium is a good example. Too much calcium (1000 mg or more daily, plus dietary intake) overloads our ability to get rid of excess and starts to show up where we don't want it - kidney stones and arteries for starters. This might explain why most of the rest of the world gets less calcium than Americans but has equal or better bone health.
At Ritual, we have the luxury of a huge amount of previous knowledge to point the way to a proper intake of vitamins and minerals for balancing health. It’s really simple - see how the body promotes health, see what is missing the most, and that is what we give to you.