The safety of commonly used vitamins and minerals

5 Min Read

The FDA requires nutritional supplement labels to state exactly what’s contained in the package. But government inspectors rarely check.

Result: Many supplements contain too little or too much of the active ingredient are contaminated with pesticides or heavy metals (arsenic, cadmium, lead) or aren’t properly absorbed by the body., an independent evaluator of nutritional and vitamin/mineral supplements, recently tested more than 500 products in laboratories throughout the country to determine if their ingredients matched what was listed on the label. Products also were tested for contamination and their ability to dissolve in the body.

Best choices…


Most people use multivitamins and minerals as “nutritional insurance” to compensate for gaps in their diets.

Test results: Of the 27 products tested, nine failed. The most common problems were related to vitamin A. Some of the products contained more than 150 % of the amount listed on the label.

Excessive vitamin A can cause headache, anemia and bone and liver damage. Other multivitamin formulas contained lower-than listed levels of beta-carotene and folic acid, an essential nutrient for preventing birth defects. Reliable products include…

  • Geritol Complete.
  • Life Essentials Dietary Supplement.
  • Nutrilite Daily Multivitamin and Multi mineral Dietary Supplement.
  • Ocuvite Zinc with Key Antioxidants Vitamin and Mineral Supplement.

B vitamins

The eight B vitamins are involved in all aspects of metabolism, but your body can’t produce them. B vitamins are available only through food or supplements. Some supplements contain a single B vitamin, while others contain all eight.

Test results: Of the 21 products tested nine listed doses on their labels that were in excess of the safe upper limit (UL) for vitamin B-3 (niacin), as established by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies.

High doses can be taken under a doctor’s supervision to safely lower cholesterol. But people who take a B-complex supplement that contains 35 milligrams (mg) of niacin or more may experience side effects, such as facial flushing and skin tingling. At very high doses, niacin can cause liver damage.

Reliable products include…

  • Nature Made Balanced B-150 B-Complex Supplement Time Released
  • Nutrilite Natural B Complex Dietary Supplement
  • Stresstabs High Potency B-Complex with Antioxidants C & E & Folic Acid + Zinc Dietary Supplement
  • Vitamin World B-100 Ultra B-Complex, 100 mg

Vitamin C

It’s an antioxidant that may boost immune function, reduce cataracts and other eye diseases and protect against cancer.

Test results: Of the 26 products tested, one failed to dissolve properly and three didn’t contain enough vitamin C.

Reliable products include…

  • Kirkland Signature Vitamin C with Rose Hips, 1,000 mg
  • Nature Made Vitamin C, 1,000 mg
  • Nature’s Bounty Natural Vitamin C, 1,000 mg
  • Nutrilite Bio C Plus, 250 mg

Helpful: Don’t spend extra money for natural forms of vitamin C. Synthetic and natural forms have the same effects in the body.

Vitamin E

The amount needed for daily nutrition is easily obtained from foods (nuts, grains, oils, etc.). Higher doses are thought to be beneficial in preventing and/or treating prostate and other cancers, as well as Alzheimer’s disease.

Test results: Of the 28 products tested, two had less vitamin E than listed on the label, and one product labeled as “natural” contained synthetic vitamin E.

Important: Natural vitamin E, listed on labels as d-alpha-tocopherol, works more efficiently in the body than the synthetic dl form.

Reliable products include…

  • Brite-Life Natural Vitamin E, 400 international units(IU)
  • Carlson E-Gems Vitamin E, 400 IU
  • Solgar Natural Vitamin E, 400 IU
  • Twin lab E-400 Caps, 100% Natural, 400 IU


Most people take this mineral to strengthen their bones, but studies have suggested that it also may reduce the risk for colon polyps.

Test results: Of the 35 products tested, four contained less calcium than the amount that was listed on the label.

Reliable products include…

  • Citracal Ultra dense Calcium Citrate, 200 mg
  • GNC Calcimate Plus 800, 200 mg
  • Nature’s Bounty Calcium Citrate, 200 mg
  • Puritan’s Pride Calcium Citrate, 200 mg

Share this Article