How do you choose a safe and healthy multivitamin? Vitamins and Minerals: What You Need to Know, a new report from Harvard Medical School, offers the following advice.
Look for a seal of approval. Choose products that bear the U.S. Pharmacopeia Dietary Supplement Verification Program (USP-DSVP) mark, which indicates that the manufacturer has complied with certain standards.
Consider safe levels. All dietary supplements have a "Supplement Facts" label that lists the percentage of the daily value (DV) of each nutrient per serving, as well as the actual amount of each. Multivitamin and multimineral supplements shouldn't exceed 150% of the DV for any nutrient. In fact, for trace minerals, such as iron, fluoride, and zinc, it's safest not to exceed the DV at all.
Ignore marketing gimmicks. It doesn't matter whether vitamin C is derived from organic rose hips or synthesized in large batches in a laboratory; your body will use the resulting product similarly. Also, if you're not sensitive to specific ingredients, such as wheat, rice, or lactose, there's no need to pay more for allergen-free products.
Don't pay more for unproven extras. There is virtually no evidence that herbs and other nonvitamin ingredients added to supplements—such as echinacea, bioflavonoids, and ubiquinone (coenzyme Q10)—are essential for your health.
Beware of potentially dangerous interactions. Pay attention to warnings on the label, and tell your doctor and pharmacist what supplements you take.
Vitamins and Minerals: What you Need to Know is a 48-page report edited by Meier J. Stampfer, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health.