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23 Jun

Dear Mark: Better Nutrient Forms

2153783207 2c615fe319Dear Mark,

What’s the story about certain kinds of vitamin C, calcium, etc.? Does it make any difference?

Because we live in a more complicated, modern world with chronic stress, pollution, etc., I always suggest wise supplementation for optimum health. The best supplementation is effectively comprehensive, properly balanced, and efficiently bioavailable. Some forms of some nutrients are simply more readily absorbed than others. Additionally, some forms of certain nutrients are easier on the digestive system than others, particularly in those with stomach sensitivity.

When it comes to food, you want the best your money can buy, and the same thing goes for supplementation. Different supplements (we’ll stick with “multivitamins” for now) fulfill their nutritional claims differently. Some forms of certain nutrients, generally the more bioavailable and stomach-friendly forms, are more expensive than less bioavailable or harsher forms.

In response to this and other questions I’ve been getting lately, I thought I’d throw out a mini-primer highlighting some of the most common and important contrasts in nutrient forms. I’ll call it a “not this, but that” list of recommendations for key nutrients.

Vitamin A

The bulk of a supplements vitamin A sources should be beta-carotene and other mixed carotenoids rather than retinol or retinoic acid (which is pure vitamin A). In addition to beta-carotene, other important carotenoids include alpha-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and lycopene.

Vitamin B

The key with any of the B vitamins is balance. B vitamins are a family of vitamins and should be taken as a balanced “complex.” Too often, physicians prescribe individual B vitamins for given circumstances (i.e. B6 for birth control pill users, or B12 for vegetarians or those on acid reducing medications). A good supplement will offer the full B Complex for optimum benefit. Look for “p5p” form of B6 and the “methylcobalamin” form of B12.

Vitamin C

Many versions of vitamin C are non-buffered. Non-buffered forms are acidic and can result (especially in larger doses and for the more sensitive among us) in upset stomach, cramping or diarrhea. Buffered forms of vitamin C, like calcium ascorbate or ascorbyl palmitate, offer optimal balance and absorption.

Vitamin D

Whereas many supplements contain vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol), the most bioavailable form for humans is D3 (choleciferol), the form produced by the body with natural sun exposure.

Vitamin E

Avoid synthetic versions, which are often preceded by “dl-“ as in “dl-alpha-tocopherol”. A quality supplement will offer a natural blend of mixed tocopherols (with gamma tocopherol being identified as a predominant form) and, ideally, mixed tocotrienols. The natural blend benefits both digestion and absorption.

Calcium

Particularly for those with digestive issues, calcium citrate is an easily absorbed, bioavailable form. Look for it as a primary source of calcium in a supplement.

Carnitine

An essential nutrient for heart health and energy production, I recommend avoiding the synthetic “D” form of carnitine. Choose the natural L-Carnitine form instead.

Chromium

Both chromium picolinate and chromium niacinate offer solid benefit for blood sugar regulation, but some research shows that chromium niacinate offers more of an edge in reducing inflammation and oxidative stress.

CoQ10

You really get what you pay for with CoQ10. Cheaper, synthetic forms are sub-optimal and sometimes made from impure sources. CoQ10 in its natural form is more expensive but more beneficial to the body.

Other nutrients/additions worth paying extra for in a supplement: DMAE, Vinpocetine, Gingko Biloba, Resveratrol, Grapeseed Extract, Bilberry, Tomato Extract, and Green Tea Extract. We will be doing extended reviews of these nutrients in future posts.

Thanks, as always, for your questions.

twenty questions Flickr Photo (CC)

Further Reading:

Dear Mark: Mulling Multivitamins

Not Enough B-6?

Vitamin D and RDA for Children

More on Omega

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You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. So true! I’ve been pushing buffered C on people for years. When you drink something high in vitamin C like orange juice, the Calcium in OJ acts as the buffer to the C, but C straight up can be worse than hot sauce on your stomach! Get it buffered, folks.

    Anne wrote on June 23rd, 2008
  2. That is a great point on the truth of buffered C Anne. I think that there are a lot of misnomers out there regarding supplements and supplementation in general. Like Vitamin K for instance acts a a blood thinner I believe and mixed with something that is a blood coagulant could be potentially dangerous. It is good have site’s like these to get the truth out so we supplement with knowledge.

    Timothy wrote on June 23rd, 2008
  3. Hi Mark,

    I take 5000 iu of Vitamin D3. I noticed you have not mentioned any recommended dosages?

    Any idea of ballpark values mate? Thanks

    Ross wrote on November 25th, 2008
  4. Thanks for the interesting article.

    Mila wrote on December 21st, 2008
  5. What are your thoughts on Magnesium?

    Luann wrote on February 9th, 2010
  6. I heard that methylcobalamin was actually produced by certain strains of bacteria, and that it’s possible for vegans to obtain it if the soil and plants have absorbed this methylcobalamin and have been contaminated by the bacteria that produce it. How true is this?

    saab wrote on November 3rd, 2011
  7. Nice article. I have bookmark it.

    Miguel Romero wrote on March 25th, 2013

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