Research, news, and commentary related to wellness and nutritional therapies by Functional Medicine consultant, Andy Robbins.
Tuesday, September 12, 2017
Breaking Down the Evaluation Criteria (or lack thereof) of a Popular Online Guide for Multivitamins
Recently it was brought to my attention that a self-proclaimed resource for evaluating multivitamins, a source I will leave nameless in print but that the reader is free to ask me about, gave a not-so-good evaluation of some products that I passionately believe in, but glowing recommendations for products that might be considered questionable. So I wanted to respond by evaluating the "evaluators."
Perhaps I should start by showing the faulty evaluation method in the multivitamin that they ranked at the top of their list, which I will leave nameless for this post. Most doctors by now know that if a form of a certain nutrient isn't listed, it's probably the cheap, junky stuff. The reader should take note of several important micronutrients listed in their #1 ranking that do not have the forms listed: iron, magnesium, vitamin E, B6, B12, calcium, etc. Nearly 100% of the time, when a product line does not list the forms, it is most likely the cheapest and least-effective forms on the planet. In evaluating any vitamin supplement, it is vital to consider the forms of the ingredients -- ones that are clinically-proven to be effective. (BTW: listing a source, such as algae, is not the same as listing the FORM.) It is equally important to look at the company's commitment to full disclosure on the labels.
Secondly, the product in question lists an enzyme blend on their label. Those who are in-the-know understand that enzymes mixed into a multivitamin is a dead ringer that the product line doesn't know what they're doing. You cannot add enzymes in with a laundry list of other ingredients like this and have any enzymes left by the time the product is brought to market. Enzymes gobble things up. That's what enzymes do. The enzymes thus denature themselves when they start that process so that in no time there's nothing left. In doing so they also diminish the levels of many other ingredients in the product. If a third-party laboratory assay was performed to measure the amount of live enzymes this product, I would be willing to bet that they aren't there. Most likely the company in question does not perform third-party or even in-house assays since the FDA does not require them, and since doing so would most likely show that the product in question has no live enzymes as the label claims.
In this same product there is also CoQ10 listed on the label. The consumer should be aware that CoQ10 is very unstable and denatures very easily when combined with several other ingredients. Even if it was stable, the fact that it's in a powder/capsule form diminishes its effectiveness, since research shows that oil-based CoQ10 is 3-FOLD more bioavailable than dry forms.
And THIS is the product that this self-proclaimed evaluator of quality multivitamins ranks number one???
Additionally, here's some very inaccurate statements made about Cyanocobalamin (B12)on the site, and my short response:
"Most manufacturers go with the synthetic cyanocobalamin form because it is cheaper to make and has a longer shelf life."
WRONG - Cyanocobalamin is used because it is the most clinically validated, with reams of data involving MILLIONS of patients.
"Unfortunately, it cannot be readily absorbed by the body."
WRONG AGAIN. The research shows the exact opposite.
"It also contains trace amounts of cyanide..."
"INFINITELY WRONG. Who is writing this stuff, anyway? B12 in any form does not contain cyanide. The "cyano" part of cyanocobalamin has nothing to do with cyanide.
"...making it slightly toxic [wrong] if taken over a long period of time [wrong]...."
When writing content on health-related topics, it really helps to consult the research first.
(By the way, our multi/phytonutrient blend contains the methylcobalamin form of B12, but not because it's better than cyano. This was only in response to doctor requests who didn't want to continue answering questions having to do with this unfortunate misunderstanding of this topic. Having this form of B12 in the product makes these questions go away. Both forms are very good, but the idea that cyano is an inferior form is categorically false. Feel free to ask me for references.)
In looking closely at the quality assessment criteria of the site in question
, it becomes obvious
that it is based on the number
and the amounts,
a subjective label review
, not objective.
Can one define and determine quality based on a label review of ingredients?
It is a qualitative opinion of the individuals and not one of particular value to a practitioner or consumer in trying to determine which supplement to purchase.
Does the author include an understanding of herb manufacture as a measure of quality?
they provide a quality assessment of the listed actives in the standardized herb proving they survive manufacture so that they can provide clinical value to the consumer
Do they reference any bioactive profiles to prove the herbs are alive, effective, and that the active constituents are maintained at high levels? Nope.
And what about
author include published clinical validation as part of their quality analysis? No. And why not? Here's an article showing the importance of this kind of evaluation:
I'm not certain, but the site in question might be related in some way to the book, Comparative Guide to Nutritional Supplements. The criteria looks very similar. That book has been around for many years. The author is a former board member for a multilevel supplement company. While everyone has to read for themselves and draw their own opinions, close scrutiny of the book -- as well as the website in question -- suggests the authors (along with a small committee) decided for themselves what nutrients and at what levels should be found in what a 'quality' supplement is, in THEIR OPINION. Then, in essence, they said, "Let’s compare and see who gets closest." One has to decide if this is really a marker of quality. Or, for our phytonutrient/multivitamin blend as an example, is quality ORACfn a much better measurement of phytonutrient 'freshness' and activity? Is COMET assaying a measure of quality? Is peer-journal publication a mark of multivitamin quality?
I have not even gotten to GMP, third-party gluten-free certification, GMO status, and on-and-on. Everyone just has to answer for themselves what true quality is, I guess. Is it, "We think quality is specific ingredients at these specific levels," or the kind of standards found in the published research?
HERE'S AN IMPORTANT QUESTION TO YOUR PATIENTS WHO MIGHT BE USING THE SITE IN QUESTION AS A WAY TO GUIDE THEIR SUPPLEMENT PURCHASES:
"On what, if any, standards are these scoring systems based?"
The patient won't be able to tell you, of course, because the site itself can't tell you. As far as I can tell, again, it's someone's opinion, because they certainly didn't consult the research. Everybody has an opinion...and a belly-button. "I devised a scoring system..." is not based on fact or objectivity. Remember that old Wendy's commercial where the old lady demanded, "Where's the beef!?" That's the same question people should be asking when it comes to research. Anyone can SAY anything! I can SAY that our multi grows hair on the heads of 8 out of 10 bald men, and you know what -- if I put that on a website, a lot of people would believe it and buy the product on the basis of that statement. But where's the beef? Where's the research to validate my claims? Without that, the claims on the product are not worth the paper they're printed on.
Now, if you want research and an objective way to evaluate a multi, it may interest you to know that a study published in GLOBAL ADVANCES IN HEALTH AND MEDICINE showed that our phytonutrient/multivitamin blend effected improvements in several health parameters, including cardio markers MPO, LDL, CRP, and PAI-1, as well as the Comet Assay, and an antioxidant level evaluation in the PERSON after taking the product, not just the product itself.
How come the "evaluators" of this site (and I use that term very loosely) didn't use this kind of criteria? Good question, Sherlock.
Okay, if I go any further I'm gonna start getting really snarky or start preaching like a Pentecostal evangelist at a tent revival. So I better quit.
But here's another very short tidbit I will leave you with: The site in question denigrates folic acid, yet their #2 recommendation for multis uses straight folic acid. How is it possible that they gave that product the number two ranking, then? They aren't even consistent with their own standards. Someone is greasing someone's hand here. OR, they aren't even really paying attention to what they are saying versus the products they are recommending. One or the other. In either case, even a cursory analysis of this site shows they are totally unreliable as a scientific source.