Multivitamins: Ratings of Sources
ConsumerLab.com is the best source for multivitamin reviews, although its testing details are available only to subscribers. Dozens of multivitamins are evaluated to ensure they contain the vitamins and minerals they claim, break down properly, and don't include additional substances or impurities. Multivitamins that pass all tests are listed as approved; those who do not are not approved.
This independent testing organization analyzes 75 different multivitamins, separating them by categories: Adults, Men, Women, 50+, Gummy and Kids, although no multivitamin in the Kids category is very well-ranked. Most categories are organized by top 10 first, then runners up in that category. Each product also earns a letter grade of A through F. A limited amount of information is available at the free site, more detailed information can be accessed with free registration.
Editors of ConsumerReports.org evaluates 19 multivitamins in this older report. Supplements are tested at two independent labs to ensure they meet their label claims and dissolve properly. They're also screened for impurities such as lead and arsenic. As evidenced in other independent tests, store-brand vitamins fare just as well as the expensive name brands. Unlike some ConsumerReports.org content, this report does not require a subscription.
Amazon.com is an excellent source of user reviews for a large number of multivitamins, from name brands to generics. Some get hundreds or thousands of reviews. There are even reviews available for multivitamins that are typically specific to a particular store, like Costco or CVS. We used feedback to evaluate concrete input, such as ease of swallowing or digestion. We did not take into account reports of "increased energy," or other anecdotal side effects, positive or negative.
Walmart.com is a good resource for generic and other low cost vitamins; particularly Equate brand vitamins, which is Walmart's generic brand. Experts say that lower-priced vitamins perform just as well as pricier brands, so these products are worth considering, especially if you're on a budget.
iHerb.com sells only supplements and natural health products. Some of the multivitamins here get hundreds of reviews, and you can sort reviews by language; English, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Chinese and Arabic. Reviews tend to be in-depth and often show extensive knowledge of the ingredient base of each product.
Like iHerb.com, VitaCost.com's focus is on the sale of supplements. As such, it carries a wide range of multivitamins in all categories. While each product's rating is easy to determine, you have to click on the product to find out how many people have reviewed it. However, once you dig in, reviews tend to be very thorough.
VitaminShoppe.com is another online site that devotes itself to the sale of products targeted to the health needs of people. It carries a good selection of multis, but they are divided into categories so, unless you know the specific multivitamin you want to research, you need to scroll through the categories for rankings and ratings.
Target.com carries as wide a range of vitamins as any other retail source, but it's a particularly good source for its generic brand, up&up. In testing, up&up vitamins get passing scores for ingredient purity and truth in labeling, while coming in as a lower cost option in many categories.
GNC makes a very well-reviewed range of multivitamins that also fare well in independent tests for accuracy in labeling and stated ingredients. Although this site sells only GNC products, reviews tend to be thorough and honest, and include pros and cons, However, there are few reviews here overall, GNC products sold elsewhere (such as Amazon.com) tend to get many more user reviews.
Drugstore.com sells a good variety of multivitamins, but they get far fewer user reviews that Walmart.com or Amazon.com. Several multivitamins attract several dozen reviews, but comments are usually brief. However, this site also contains a helpful buying guide to help you chose the right multi.
The nonprofit Institute of Medicine investigates the current Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) for calcium and vitamin D. Its experts find that contrary to popular belief, most Americans get "adequate amounts" of both nutrients, and they caution that large doses can be harmful. The DRI for calcium for most adults is set at 1,000 mg, although slightly more is recommended for adolescents and seniors. While the DRI for vitamin D is 600 IU for most people, seniors over the age of 70 should aim for 800 IU. This is the most recent update.
This German study, which appeared in the June 2012 issue of the journal Heart, found a significantly increased risk of heart attack among women who took calcium supplements. This study has led to a re-examination by some health experts of the role of calcium supplements and health, but not to new guidelines for supplementation.
The differences between folate and folic acid are just now being explored to see what different effects each type of supplementation has on the body. This overview, medically reviewed by Peggy Pletcher, MS, RD, LD, CDE, offers an overview of the difference between the two and how to be sure you're getting enough in your diet.