Life Extension Magazine®

Fruits and vitamins that contain nutrients that are often lost in commercial multivitamins

What's In Your Multivitamin Formula?

Commercial multivitamins often provide low potencies and fail to utilize enzymatically active forms of nutrients.

Scientifically reviewed by: Dr. Gary Gonzalez, MD, in August 2023. Written by: Michael Downey.

About 70% of Americans over age 64 take a multivitamin as a kind of insurance policy, to get minimum amounts of vitamins and minerals to help guard against deficiency.1

A November 2021 report associated daily multi-vitamin use over three years with 60% slower cognitive aging.2

Another study found that, compared to non-users, those taking multivitamins had 5.1% longer telomeres on average.3 Shorter telomeres are a biomarker of aging linked to accelerated aging.4

These findings do not apply to all multivitamins. Many widely used multivitamins tend to have low potencies and may lack the optimal form of certain nutrients to provide anticipated benefits.

This is important because older people have a decreased capacity to absorb and utilize certain nutrients.5

Fortunately, American consumers have access to evidence-based blends of vitamins, minerals, and plant-based compounds at affordable prices.

Dangers of Deficiencies

Vitamins and minerals are cofactors for enzymes throughout the body. These enzymes are required to repair DNA, prevent oxidative damage, maintain cardiovascular health, and perform many functions essential for a healthy and long life.6,7

Up to 70% of Americans are deficient in one or more vital nutrient. Inadequate intake of these essential nutrients may increase the risk of age-related disease and premature aging.6

For example, the continuous creation of cellular DNA and RNA requires certain B vitamins that function as critical coenzymes.8

Higher Dosages

Many multivitamins contain the minimal dosage necessary to prevent diseases like scurvy and osteomalacia.

Larger amounts of some nutrients are often needed to promote healthy longevity.

Inadequate dosages can be especially problematic for older adults who have more difficulty absorbing nutrients.5

An increasing number of Americans are switching to multinutrient formulas that provide vitamins, minerals, and plant extracts in higher dosages and more bioavailable forms.

The Best Forms of Nutrients

Folate is a B-vitamin vital cofactor for many enzymatic reactions, including those that detoxify homocysteine, a risk factor for vascular disease.9,10

Before folate can perform, it must be converted to its active form, L-methylfolate (5-MTHF).

Older individuals are challenged to convert dietary or supplemental folate into biologically active 5-MTHF. This helps explain why homocysteine levels often surge upwards in the elderly.11,12

A multivitamin should include folate in its bioavailable form, 5-MTHF. This means it is already active and can be easily absorbed and used by tissues immediately.

A superior multivitamin should also include beneficial nutrients not generally found in widely available formulas, such as:

  • The mineral boron,
  • The antioxidant alpha-lipoic acid,
  • Plant extracts, such as the carotenoid lycopene, and
  • Mixed tocopherols (natural forms of vitamin E that each provide different benefits).

Key Nutrients

Here are just a few of the nutrients that adults should look for in a multivitamin.


Zinc supplementation supports a healthy immune system, as well as healthy inflammatory and free-radical defenses.13,14

Vitamin C

This vitamin stimulates the production and function of immune cells.15,16 Vitamin C is also vital for the formation of collagen, the connective tissue found throughout healthy arterial walls, skin, bones, and teeth.15,17


This mineral supports healthy inflammatory and immune responses and promotes cardiovascular, thyroid, and brain health.18-21 In fact, the thyroid gland is the organ with the highest amount of selenium per gram of tissue. 19 Selenium comes in different forms: high-selenium yeast, Se-methyl L-selenocysteine, and sodium selenite. Each has distinct beneficial properties.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D promotes immune function, as well as healthy cell division, cognitive function, and bone health.22-24 Minimum dosages to achieve what some consider "sufficient" potency are 2,000 IU daily taken with a meal that contains some fat. Many people today take an additional 1,000-5,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily to achieve optimal blood levels.

Vitamin A

This vitamin promotes healthy vision, formation of thyroid hormones, healthy skin and mucous membranes, the growth of bone, teeth, and soft tissues, and immune functions. Vitamin A is best obtained from two separate sources: the fatty acid retinyl acetate and the pigment beta-carotene.25,26


The flavonol quercetin inhibits the release of pro-inflammatory substances.27,28 It also promotes cellular health and function and may support the cardio-vascular system by preserving the health and function of cells lining the insides of blood vessels.29

B Vitamins

The B vitamins help break down nutrients the body's cells need to carry out their daily functions.30 These vitamins work together, which is why a superior multi-vitamin should contain readily metabolized forms of riboflavin, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, folate, and others.


This mineral is required for several enzyme activities, including those that detoxify alcohol and metabolize sulfur.31 Most multivitamins don't contain sufficient potencies of molybdenum.

Mixed Vitamin E Tocopherols

The four forms of vitamin E tocopherols—alpha, beta, delta, and gamma—work together to optimize health. For example, combining alpha and gamma tocopherols is better for reducing chronic inflammation and oxidative stress than taking either alone.32 All four should be taken daily. These tocopherols are only available in formulas that utilize natural vitamin E, which is more expensive than synthetic vitamin E used in many commercial formulas.

Alpha-Lipoic Acid

This natural compound helps regenerate the free-radical scavenging properties of vitamin C and glutathione so they can fight against damaging free radicals.33-35 Most multivitamins contain no alpha-lipoic acid.

A scientifically designed multinutrient formula includes vitamins, minerals and plant extracts in the dosages and forms meant to help optimize their benefits to health and longevity.

What you need to know

Better Multivitamins

  • A good multivitamin should do more than help maintain basic life. It should support the body’s critical enzymes, promote health, and reduce the risk of early aging and premature death.
  • Widely available formulas provide insufficient dosages and fail to include optimal forms, or the full array of nutrients to optimize health. This is a particular risk to older adults who have a decreased capacity to absorb and use many nutrients.
  • Multi-nutrient formulas available today provide meaningful potencies of a broad array of health promoting compounds.
  • Taken daily, multinutrient formulas can play an important role in promoting overall good health and longevity.


American diets generally provide insufficient vitamins and minerals to support healthy longevity.

Most adults could benefit from a good multivitamin. Widely advertised commercial formulas omit critical nutrients, may provide insufficient dosages, and do not use optimal forms of some nutrients.

Readers of this publication have long gained access to a blend of vitamins, minerals, and plant extracts that delivers the broadest array of health-promoting nutrients in their optimal dosages and forms.

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.

The Fragility of Vitamins

Fruits, vegetables, and other foods can be an excellent source of vitamins. But there’s a catch: Vitamins easily break down in the presence of heat, air, or oxygen. This means they can be inactivated during cooking, storage, or exposure to the air.36

That’s one reason that supplemental intake of a full array of vitamins is so important for overall health.


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