Here's the basics of what you need to know about the best vitamin supplements, water-soluble vitamins first, then the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. For more information on how to use these vitamins to support healing from disease or to enhance good health, please see specific articles on each vitamin throughout this site.
Best Vitamin Supplements: Thiamin
Other names: Also called vitamin B1, vitamin F, thiamine.
Thiamin deficiency is becoming more common among the college students (notably among college students living on ramen because they run out of money), and can result in edema and heart arrhythmias. A combination of thiamin and pyridoxine (B6) can help relieve leg cramps.
Best Vitamin Supplements: Riboflavin
Other names: Also called vitamin B2.
You'll know when you're getting riboflavin in a supplement by the neon yellow glow of your urine. It's a side effect of supplementation without any detriment to your health. Light can destroy riboflavin, so supplements are especially helpful if you buy milk in glass containers.
Best Vitamin Supplements: Niacin
Other names: Also called nicotinic acid, nicotinamide, vitamin B3.
The human body can make niacin from the amino acid tryptophan, so any food high in tryptophan, such as turkey, will contribute to niacin intake. If you get flushing when you take vitamin B3 for lowering cholesterol, avoid turkey except for special occasions. See the article on vitamin B3 if you are considering taking this vitamin for cholesterol control.
Best Vitamin Supplements: Biotin
Biotin deficiency isn't common, but it can cause cradle cap in infants and skin problems in children and adults. It's hard not to get enough biotin, but if you eat a lot of raw egg whites, your body's biotin can be bound to an egg white protein and made unavailable.
Best Vitamin Supplements: Pantothenic Acid
Other names: Vitamin B5
Vitamin B5 is part of the enzyme that burns fat and makes cholesterol. Vitamin B5 is also essential to the making of melatonin, the hormone regulating sleep. It helps cells signal to each other when it's necessary to release hormones to keep physiological functions in balance. And it helps the brain use essential fatty acids to make the myelin sheath that insulates nerve cells and allows neurons in the brain to communicate with each other.
Nutritionists have long believed that deficiencies of vitamin B5 were really rare. That's because vitamin B5 is found in a variety of foods. The richest sources of pantothenic acid include broccoli, egg yolks, kidney, liver, and yeast.
People who take drugs for Alzheimer's disease sometimes need supplemental vitamin B5 to offset vitamin depletion caused by medication. Vitamin B5 can be important when there's liver damage. There's some evidence that taking 900 mg of vitamin B5 a day may lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and lower them a lot: One study found a 10% reduction in LDL ("bad") cholesterol, a 20% increase in HDL ("good") cholesterol, and a 30% reduction in triglycerides after taking three doses of 300 mg of vitamin B5 every day for 30 days. Even so, there are other supplements that are better for this purpose. (Vitamin B5 may be a good choice if you have diabetes.)
Best Vitamin Supplements: Vitamin B6
Other names: Also called pyridoxine.
Vitamin B6 is vital in your daily supplementation routine because it fights a little-known culprit in cardiovascular illness, namely homocysteine. Time and time for over 10 years scientists have shown that even mildly elevated levels of homocysteine in the bloodstream raise the risk of heart disease.
And vitamin B6 isn't just for heart disease:
Side effects of oral contraceptives. Doctors sometimes prescribe up to 150 mg of vitamin B6 a day to counteract the side effects of high-estrogen oral contraceptives, for example, depression, dizziness, irritability, nausea, and vomiting.
Vitamin B6 only compensates for these side effects; it does not correct them. Your best bet is to take just a small dosage of vitamin B6, no more than 5 milligrams a day, and to make sure your diet provides all the needed amino acids (especially tryptophan) and your sugars are neither too high nor too low.
PMS. When doctors had success treating the side effects of high-dose oral contraceptives with vitamin B6, they started using it to treat premenstrual syndrome (PMS). The symptoms of PMS most readily responsive to treatment with vitamin B6 are breast tenderness, fluid retention, and fatigue, although some women report that it also helps with mood swings. Dosages of up 100 milligrams a day may be of value.
Depression. It's possible that vitamin B6 might help relieve depression. It's a key component of the enzyme that makes serotonin and norepinephrine, the neurotransmitters that support alertness and pleasure. Higher doses, however, may not be better. Just be sure you get your minimum 2 milligrams a day of vitamin B6 if you suffer mild to moderate depression.
Morning sickness (hyperemesis gravidarum, or nausea and vomiting in pregnancy). Doctors have used vitamin B6 since 1945 to treat nausea and vomiting during the first trimester of pregnancy.
Vitamin B6 is safe for baby. The dosage needed is about 25 milligrams every 8 hours for 3 days, or 10 milligrams every 8 hours for 5 days. Morning sickness can go away without any treatment at all, but the added vitamin B6 may be needed if morning sickness lasts for more than a week, and you get the benefits sooner if you take the supplement sooner.
Carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel syndrome causes pain, weakness, and numbness in the hand and fingers due to compression. The condition usually results from repetitive stress to the wrist, although it also may be a complication of pregnancy or hypothyroidism.
Taking 100 to 200 milligrams of vitamin B6 a day for 90 days can help relieve pain, tingling, and waking up at night. An important cautionary note: Your vitamin B6 will work better if you do NOT take supplemental vitamin C.
Best Vitamin Supplements: Folate
Other names: Also called folic acid or folacin.
To prevent spina bifida and other neural tube disorders in their babies, all women who are pregnant, and women who have the potential to become pregnant, should be sure to take folate supplements. For all adults, too little folate can result in anemia.
Best Vitamin Supplements: Vitamin B12
Other names: Also called cobalamin.
Most nutrition books will tell you that vitamin B12 is the vitamin that cures anemia. Until recently, there was hardly any information on what vitamin B12 could do for healthy people. New studies show that getting enough B12 boosts immune function, protects against senile dementia, regenerates cells through the body and, most notably of all, works with folic acid to protect the heart. This vitamin is also essential for maintaining the chemical reactions that create SAM-e, repair DNA, and prevent cancer.
Best Vitamin Supplements: Vitamin C
Other names: Also called ascorbic acid.
Vitamin C is the best-known vitamin. Its antioxidant power makes it a key player in regulating the immune system, fighting off infections, possibly preventing cancer, and even relieving the aches and pains of tired muscles.
Vitamin C is essential for the manufacture of collagen, the protein that keeps skin supple and wrinkle-free. It is essential for the production of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, one of the chemicals that prevent depression. It helps the liver make bile to carry cholesterol out of the body, and it helps in the making of carnitine that enables cells to burn fat.
If you don't get your fruits and veggies, you need at least 200 mg of supplemental C every day. And if you are trying to fight any of a number of serious health conditions with vitamin C's antioxidant power, you need more. Why would you take extra vitamin C? According to the first National Health and Nutrition Examination Study,
Getting just 300 mg of vitamin C every day lowers risk of death from cardiovascular disease by 25% in women and by 42% in men.
The study also found that getting more than 360 mg of vitamin C day lowers risk of having a survivable heart attack by 27 to 28%. The study found that vitamin C in food wasn't what made the difference. The lowered risk of heart attack and stroke was found in people who took supplements.
Why would vitamin C lower the risk of heart attack and stroke? The answer seems to be blood pressure. One study recently found that taking 500 mg of vitamin C day lowers systolic blood pressure (the top number) an average of 9% over an eight-week period. Vitamin C lowers blood pressure whether or not users are on blood pressure medication.
Best Vitamin Supplements: Vitamin A
Other names: Also called retinol or retinoic acid.
Here's a list of just some of the reasons why vitamin A is one of the best vitamin supplements:
A byproduct of vitamin A called retinoic acid helps cells respond to thyroid hormone.
Among women who have a family history of breast cancer, higher intake vitamin A is associated with lower rates of cancer before menopause.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and human papillomavirus (HPV) are transmitted 4 to 200 times more readily when the carrier suffers vitamin A deficiency.
In the fetus, vitamin A is essential for the formation of the heart, eyes, and ears.
Mild deficiency in vitamin A increases risk of diarrhea and fevers in children.
Mild vitamin A deficiency can lead to inflammation at the corners of the eyes.
Severe vitamin A deficiency can lead to xerophthalmia, a condition of extremely dry eyes.
The retina uses vitamin A to make rhodopsin, also known as visual purple. This pigment allows the retina to detect very small amounts of light, making night vision possible.
Vitamin A helps maintain the integrity of the mucosa in the ears, nose, and throat, protecting them against infection.
Amazingly, many natural health experts offer the opinion that you don't need this best natural vitamin at all. Your body can make vitamin A from beta-carotene, they say, or vitamin A is toxic if taken to excess. Still other health experts say that you need this best natural vitamin, that you have to get your vitamin A, but the only way you can get it is from (their particular brand of) fish oil. What's the truth?
For a long time, nutritional researchers didn't know how to measure this best natural vitamin. This vitamin is fat-soluble. When you consume foods or supplements containing vitamin A or beta-carotene, your bloodstream concentrations don't go up. Recent research has found that these vitamins go straight into your fat cells. If you're overweight, consider the best vitamin supplements with vitamin A.
Best Vitamin Supplements: Vitamin D
You need calcium and phosphorous for healthy bones, but your bones can't absorb these minerals without the hormones your body makes with the help of vitamin D.
Researchers at Harvard University recently completed a study of 72,337 women over 18 years. They found that women who got the benefits of vitamin D from consuming what was once considered a high dose (about 500 IU) in food and supplements had a greatly lowered risk of broken hips. The Harvard researchers concluded that neither milk nor calcium is enough to maintain bone health, and that taking vitamin D supplements is a good idea.
No fracture is more likely to lead to death and disability than a broken hip. Vitamin D definitely helps prevent this condition. And although osteoporosis is more commonly associated with women than with men, over 5 million men a year in North America alone develop this disease.
Best Vitamin Supplements: Vitamin E
Other names: Alpha-tocopherol is just one of the eight forms of vitamin E. Other forms of the vitamin, also important to human health, include beta-tocopherol, gamma-tocopherol, delta-tocopherol, alpha-tocotrienol, beta-tocotrienol, gamma-tocotrienol, and delta-tocotrienol.
People seeking help with sexual difficulties should consider the many interdependencies of vitamin E and sex drive. Most men who take vitamin E for at least a week notice more sexual energy, harder, longer lasting erections, more pleasure when touched, stronger libido, and more powerful and frequent orgasms. Most women who take vitamin E for at least 3 months notice stronger sexual desire, more engorgement, sensation, better lubrication, and intense climaxes.
Best Vitamin Supplements: Vitamin K
Other names: Also called menadione, menaquinone, or phylloquinone.
Vitamin K's sole job in the body is to make the proteins that regulate the flow of calcium in and out of tissues. Vitamin K helps bones absorb calcium. It helps tendons and cartilage calcification-free. And it helps blood to clot.
This is the basics on the best vitamin supplements, but how to you recognize the best brand?
The best vitamin supplements are in a single daily dose, easy to remember, easy to take.
The best vitamin supplements include all the nutrients you need. It's especially important that they include both vitamin B12 and folic acid and both copper and zinc.
The best vitamin supplements are bottled in materials that block light and oxidation.
The best vitamin supplements are sold by vitamin specialists, who keep their inventory fresh for fullest natural quality.
To enjoy the full benefits of the best vitamin supplements, we recommend Total Balance.
All of the 85 ingredients in Total Balance work in complete synergy without interfering with each other. Total Balance can be taken with or without food. You don't need high doses of any one vitamin or nutrient, just a highly concentrated, natural formulation of the best vitamin supplements for your health.
We take Total Balance ourselves and are very happy with the results. We covered it in detail in the "what we take tab" on the upper left hand portion of this page.