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Ingredients to Avoid in Multivitamins

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The selenium content in whole plant foods depend on the level of the nutrient in the soil, and, unfortunately, many farming areas around the world are becoming increasingly selenium depleted. Most of the selenium is also lost when the food is processed or refined, so unless you consume lots of whole organic produce, you may be at risk of selenium deficiency.

It is because of these facts that supplements containing selenium have increased in popularity in the United States, to the extent that close to 25 percent of Americans over 40 take a selenium supplement or multivitamin that includes selenium. However, supplementing with sodium selenite and selenate may do more harm than good.

Beware of Inorganic Selenium

As explained in the featured article, sodium selenite and selenate are two potentially problematic ingredients found in many multivitamins.

According to PAN, a database for pesticide chemicals, both sodium selenite and sodium selenate are classified as “Highly Toxic,” based on oral administration trials using rabbits and rats. And according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the highest allowable level of selenium in public drinking water is 50 parts per billion, which is equivalent to 50 micrograms, dry weight.

Studies have shown that:

  • Long-term exposure to selenium, sodium selenite, sodium selenate, or selenium dioxide may cause paleness, coated tongue, stomach disorders, nervousness, metallic taste and a garlic odor of the breath. Damage to the liver and spleen in animals has also been observed, according to The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
  • According to the 1986 edition of the Handbook of the Toxicology of Metals, daily intake of about one milligram of selenium as selenite can be toxic.
  • In one study, sodium selenite was found to induce substantial DNA damage in human fibroblasts.
  • More recent research also indicates that too much selenium may contribute to the onset of diabetes.
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Dr. Mercola

Dr. Mercola has been passionate about health and technology for most of his life. As a doctor of osteopathic medicine, he treated many thousands of patients for over 20 years. In the mid 90’s he integrated his passion for natural health with modern technology via the internet and developed a website, to spread the word about natural ways to achieve optimal health.


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2:00PM PST on Nov 21, 2012

Thank you

6:52PM PST on Jan 9, 2012

The problem is that no one actually knows what vitamins or nutrients they actually need to supplement unless that are getting tested to see if their levels are off. Most of what we're told is "good" for us is just a marketing ploy to sell a product.

Rather than recommend going to the most natural source of supplements, how about recommending that people seek out the most natural sources in their food?

9:49AM PST on Jan 9, 2012

You can get too much of certain vitamins and suffer from hypervitaminosis.

1:25PM PST on Jan 8, 2012

High quality supplements are EXTREMELY expensive and low quality ones are junk. Just eat good food and hope for the best ;-)

7:40AM PST on Jan 8, 2012

Many articles tell you what to avoid in multi-vitamins. It can get confusing. I just wish a doctor would recommend a brand to buy. When you try to research what vitamins to take, all companies recommend their brand and say it's the best. A person could stand in the vitamin/drug section and read labels all day. A doctor friend of mine says not to take any of the supplements because they are all just a way to take your money. Many supplements aren't government regulated so how do you really know what's in them?

8:51PM PST on Jan 3, 2012


3:20AM PST on Jan 3, 2012

Thank you, Dr. Mercola.

3:11AM PST on Jan 3, 2012

Glow in the dark yellow? Anyone try it to see if it works?

2:48AM PST on Jan 3, 2012

Taking a high quality daily multiple is never a bad idea, especially when few of us CAN eat an entirely well-balanced diet. However, few of us understand that we don't need 1000% percent of something or that 10/X the MDR is 10 times better. We can only absorb/utilize so much Vitamin C. The maximum amount is good, helps prevent infection, and like what another poster (Pete) said, I haven't had a cold in 25 years. Started to get a little scratchy throat a month ago and it lasted 2 days, then nothing. I don't get flu shots, and I'm supposedly in a "high risk" group age wise. I also know that 10/X the MDR of Vitamin C is just a waste of money and causes orange pee. The best dailies are not from a drugstore and in a plastic container. They aren't necessarily the most expensive, either. It pays to do one's homework. Too MUCH calcium is worse than not enough, and it has to be the right "form". Ne needs to have the proper "ratio" with magnesium to be effective. "Information overload" sometimes, sigh.

12:34AM PST on Jan 2, 2012

I read these articles but they tend to confuse me. Very few doctors agree on what is good.

In this case COQ10 was recommended and other doctors maintain it is ineffective and a waste of money. I'm well aware that like the food supply in North America, most supplements are probably just as suspect.

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