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What’s in Your Multivitamin? Here Are 10 Ingredients To Look Out For

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By Dr. Michael Murray, N.D.

There is no question that the entire human body functions best when it has a steady supply of high-quality nutrition. A deficiency of any nutrient has profound effects on the human system because the body is a complex system dependent upon the proper functioning of many interdependent systems. 

A high potency multiple vitamin and mineral supplement should provide the 13 vitamins and 14 minerals needed in proper amounts each day for your tissues and organs to do their jobs. Although needed only in relatively small amounts, these essential vitamins and minerals are crucial for the manufacture of body tissues and the activity of enzymes—molecules involved in speeding up chemical reactions necessary for human bodily function. 

10 Ingredients To Avoid in Your Multivitamin

Many popular multivitamins found in drug stores or supermarkets are touted as “recommended by physicians and pharmacists”, but are low in key essential nutrients and contain artificial additives. 

Here are a few ingredients listed on labels of some of the best-selling multivitamins that have no beneficial reason for being in any dietary supplement:

1. Synthetic Vitamin E

Synthetic vitamin E (d,l-alpha-tocopherol, or -tocopheryl) is a cheap unnatural form that may interfere with the body's utilization of the natural d-alpha forms of vitamin E.


2. Synthetic Beta-Carotene

Synthetic beta-carotene is much different in chemical composition than natural sources of beta-carotene, such as if from Dunaliella algae. 

3. BHT

Butylated hydroxytoluene, or BHT, is a synthetic antioxidant used to prevent the loss of vitamin E and beta-carotene. 


4. Corn Starch

Pregelatinized corn starch from GMO-derived corn is used as a binding agent to hold the tablet together.


5. Hydrogenated Palm Oil

Hydrogenated palm oil is a chemically altered fat used as a lubricating agent. In 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determined that these sorts of fats are no longer Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) when used in foods. However, for some reason, some companies still use hydrogenated palm oil in dietary supplement tablets.

6. Polyethylene Glycol

Polyethylene glycol is a petroleum-based compound mixed in with the bulk material before tableting so it can flow better in the machinery.

7. Stannous Chloride

Stannous chloride is added to prevent the tablet from changing color.

8. Talc

Talc, yes, that is right, talcum powder is used to improve the flow of the material through the tableting process and allow for better compression of compounds into the tablet.

9. Titanium Dioxide

Titanium dioxide is used to absorb moisture and/or to produce whiteness and opacity to a tablet. Titanium dioxide is banned in Europe because it has been shown to cause toxic effects to genetic material.

10. Yellow 6 Lake

Yellow 6 Lake is FD&C Yellow # 6 Aluminum Lake, an artificial color used to impart a reddish-yellow hue to the tablet and no other purpose.

How to Choose The Right Multivitamin for You

The ingredients above are just some of the issues you may find with multiple vitamin and mineral products. Fortunately, many quality manufacturers of dietary supplements avoid cutting corners with cheap ingredients and excipients. If you see a compound on the label that you are not sure of, look it up on iHerb or a preferred search engine.  

Another issue that is important to address is products that fail to meet label claims. It has been an issue that has popped up repeatedly over the years. In general, established brands utilize what is known as "good manufacturing practices" or GMPs to work hard at meeting label claims. The problem is almost always seen in companies of no real substance.  

Look for Quality Certifications

When looking for a multivitamin or any other supplement for that matter look for quality certifications.

iHerb addresses quality control in dietary supplements by offering products that are only from brands that employ Good Manufacturing Practices. Many dietary supplement manufacturers are also certified by organizations with strict guidelines like NSF® (National Science Foundation), USP® (United States Pharmacopeia), UL® (Underwriters Laboratories), and ISURA®. 

iHerb goes even one step further in practicing transparency through a testing program called iTested. Each product with the iTested logo has been:

  • Tested by a certified 3rd party independent laboratory for ingredients, purity, and label compliance.

  • Offers complete transparency by offering a verified report.

  • Allows quality assurance, authenticity, and product guarantee.


This article was written by Dr. Michael Murray, iHerb's Chief Scientific Advisor. For over three decades, Dr. Murray has been a thought leader, author, and expert in nutrition, dietary supplements, and natural products. He has published more than 30 books, including the bestselling Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, now in its fifth edition, which has been used by over 100,000 health care professionals across the globe.

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