Is Your Multivitamin Giving You Cancer? I'll Show You How to Check.

Your multivitamin could be giving you cancer. No joke. I’m serious as cancer.

What part of your multivitamin is the culprit?

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The seemingly innocent vitamin A precursor, beta-carotene, can act as a carcinogen.

Does your multivitamin contain beta-carotene? You’ll have to look on the label for yourself, but my guess is it does. Many mainstream multivitamins utilize beta-carotene for some or ALL of their vitamin A. You may be shocked to learn some of the largest multivitamin companies use beta-carotene.


Why Beta-Carotene Is a Problem

Depending on your personal history, beta-carotene supplementation is associated with several different types of cancers.

If you are a smoker, beta-carotene supplementation at doses greater than 20 mg a day convincingly increases the risk of lung cancer. This is independent from the increased lung cancer risk attributed to smoking itself.

If you don’t smoke, you still may not be safe. If you have been exposed to asbestos, your risk of lung cancer increases convincingly, too. And it’s likely you have been exposed to asbestos.

The tricky thing with asbestos exposure is you may have NO idea if you’ve been exposed. According to The Mesothelioma Center, most everyone in their lifetime has been exposed to asbestos. The most common exposures are due to home or commercial renovation or remodeling and sandblasting. Asbestos exposure is more common than you think. Even though I am extra cautious, I was exposed to asbestos from neighbors doing unauthorized construction and leaving asbestos venting in an open dumpster.

Lung cancer isn’t the only risk. Beta-carotene supplementation in doses greater than 20 mg a day probably increases the risk of stomach cancer in smokers and those exposed to asbestos.

Where does this information come from? Multiple scientific studies reviewed in this article.

How to Check Your Multivitamin

Do you want to check your multivitamin right now? I don’t mind … I’ll still be here when you get back. Look for “beta-carotene” or check the list for vitamin A and see what the source is.

If the source is beta-carotene, you need to do some calculating. Multivitamin labels may list the beta-carotene in micrograms (mcg), milligrams (mg), or even as international units (IU) of vitamin A.

I’ll make this easy for you.

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If your multivitamin lists beta-carotene in milligrams, just make sure your total daily milligrams are less than 20 a day. Keep in mind if you use multiple supplements, more than just your multivitamin may contain beta-carotene.

If your multivitamin lists beta-carotene in micrograms, you need to do a little math. Divide the number of micrograms by 1000 to get the number of milligrams. For example, if your multivitamin contains 3000 micrograms of beta-carotene, divide 3000 by 1000. 3000 divided by 1000 is 3. Therefore, your multivitamin contains 3 milligrams of  beta-carotene. So long as your total daily exposure is less 20 milligrams, you should be okay. Remember, if you use multiple supplements, more than just your multivitamin may contain beta-carotene.

If your multivitamin lists beta-carotene in international until (IU) of vitamin A, the calculation gets trickier. You need to convert IU’s to milligrams. You do this by multiplying the number of IU’s by 0.0006. This will give you the number of milligrams of beta-carotene, which you want to be below 20 from all sources. Again, keep in mind if you use multiple supplements, more than just your multivitamin may contain beta-carotene.

Which Multivitamin Should You Take?

That’s a great question.

You may NOT even need a multivitamin. But if you do want to take one (because you’re pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or exclude entire food groups, for example), there are things you can do to pick the best and safest option.

Check out my Multivitamin Buying Guide and My Favorite Multivitamins.

Spread the Word

Do you have a friend or family member that uses a multivitamin or other supplements? You probably do.

Please, please, please send them this post so they can make sure they’re not inadvertently increasing their risk of cancer.

Or share this post on Facebook, Instagram, or other social media. Because many cases of cancer can be prevented and we need to get the word out.

In health and happiness,
Skye

My Favorite Multivitamins

I normally NEVER do this.

But since last week’s post (5 Things You Need to Know Before Buying a Multivitamin), I’ve received so MANY questions about which specific multivitamin you should buy.

Without knowing your personal health history, I cannot recommend you use a specific product. If I knew all about your health conditions, allergens, health goals, and sensitivities, I could tell you the product that would best suit your needs. (If you are interested in working with me privately and getting a personal recommendation, contact me here.)

However, what I can do is provide you a list of multivitamins I have personally used and am happy with. The caveat is companies can change formulations and ingredients at any time. But as of today, my list is current.

Keep reading for four of my favorite multivitamins that I have personally used.
Please note: As usual, I DO NOT have any financial relationships to any of the brands/companies listed below. Please discuss starting a multivitamin with your healthcare providers.

Smarty Pants Prenatal Complete

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Smarty Pants multivitamins are chewable gummies and contain high quality vitamin forms. I personally used this during my pregnancy. Please note, this product does NOT contain iron. If you need to supplement iron, this is not the best option.

Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy often has sales on Smarty Pants vitamins. So does Vitacost.


Thorne Research Laboratories Basic Nutrients 2/Day

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If swallowing horse-pills isn’t for you, this multivitamin may be a good option. It comes as a capsule that is easy to swallow. This product contains calcium - which may be a pro or a con. It also contains beta-carotene which is not a good choice for smokers or those with asbestos exposure.

It’s rare to find Thorne Research on sale. If I find a source or sale, I’ll be sure to post it here.

mykind Organics Multi

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The ingredients in these multivitamins are certified USDA organic and non-GMO. Most ingredients are food derived, which some people like. These multivitamins contain calcium and an organic food blend- which may be a pro or a con depending on your personal needs. They also contain beta-carotene which is not a good choice for smokers or those with asbestos exposure.

mykind multivitamins often go on sale at Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy. I suspect they will have a special Thanksgiving sale as well.

Pure Encapsulations O.N.E. Multivitamin

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Pure Encapsulations makes a high quality multivitamin for adults. Fact: many multivitamins contain common allergens (like gluten, soy, or eggs). If you are gluten-intolerant, the Pure Encapsulations multivitamin may be a good choice for you as they are gluten-free. And if you avoid animal products you can rest easy knowing they are vegetarian. Please note, this multivitamin contains beta-carotene which is not a good choice for smokers or those with asbestos exposure.

Pure Encapsulations has 30% off friends and family discounts throughout the year so be on the watch for sales.

Recap


There you have it! Four multivitamins that I have personally used and happy with. Please remember, picking a multivitamin is an individualized process and depends on your specific health history and needs (which may be different from mine). And be sure to check with your healthcare providers before starting a multi.

In health,
Skye