Sunday, January 2, 2011

Testing Your Vitamins

Vitamins. Most of us take them either regularly or when we feel we need the extra 'umph'. A lot of us browse the multi-vitamin aisle in the grocery store and generally, the price dictates our purchase. The cheaper the vitamin the better we feel, right?  Well, not so much. Cheap vitamins means cheap ingredients and the old adage is true - "you get what you pay for."  You never quite know what's going into your vitamins unless the producer wants to tell you and even show you their facilities.

How do you know if your vitamin is full of good stuff or full of fillers and binders? What are fillers and binders anyway? They are substances added to the pill or tablet to hold the material together and make them easy to swallow. While some of them are plant based, they aren't a significant source of any nutrient. Many of them aren't even digested by the body, they just pass right through. Basically, they are useless to the body but useful in the forming of the tablet. Your only real benefit from fillers and binders is that you can take the vitamin in a tablet form.

Someone told me the other day two ways to test your vitamins. 1) Put your vitamin in water to see if they dissolve within half an hour. She told me that if they don't dissolve in 30 minutes that they won't dissolve in your stomach. 2) Take that water and bake it at 325*. If black stuff floats to the top during this process, that is indicative of cooked binders and fillers. I remember being told years ago by a family friend that their dad (or uncle, I forget) worked for the sewer treatment plant in their city. He had told them that he often saw multi-vitamins floating in the sewage water. He would chuckle and say that these poor people had "flushed their money and thought they were getting some kind of benefit." With that in mind, I thought I'd try the test myself today.

The Vitamin Test

* note: The Vita C that I tested is an extended release formula so it is designed to dissolve a little at a time as it passes through the digestive tract. This is why it dissolved differently. *

I grabbed a few of my morning vitamins and dropped them into a glass of water. I decided to add a touch of cider vinegar to the water because our stomachs are a very acidic place. I know that the water with a splash of vinegar doesn't really replicate stomach acid, not even close, but that's what I was thinking about as I put this together while eating breakfast.

By the time I turned around after putting the bottles back in the cupboard, they had started to dissolve a little. So I reached for my camera. You can see that the green multi-vitamin shows a spot of light coloring. That's the beginning of the dissolving and you could see multi-colored specks underneath the green coloring.
Just a few minutes into the test

I decided I'd do a blog post on my little breakfast time experiment, so I put the bottles of the three vitamins I was testing in the photo. By the time I got them on the counter, the Vita-Lea with Iron tablet was nearly gone. The Vitamin B Complex was dissolving and the Vitamin C was jelly-like. I have to say I was quite intrigued. I was pleasantly surprised at what I saw inside the Vita-Lea tablet - lots of specks of various colors.

About half an hour later
At the end of the test, I noticed that the Vita C was gelatinous, the B Complex was dissolved as was the Vita-Lea. Though they were still sitting together in a clump, they were surely not in the same form they were when I put them into the water. They had indeed dissolved within 30 minutes, less actually.

stirred up

I thought that the stomach works by "stirring things up" as part of the digestion process. This little test didn't take that into account. So I stirred the sludge, making two full circles in the cup with a stir stick. Everything came apart and the water now looked as if all the tiny particles of the vitamins were dispersed throughout the entire glass. The Vita C didn't come apart like the other two tablets but it seemed to remain in a gelatinous state, coming apart but not flaking like the others. Interesting.


So on to the next step - baking the fluid. I baked the fluid, covered, for about half an hour at 325*. I didn't want the water to evaporate because I was looking for the fillers and binders (if there were any) to bake and float to the surface. Some of the steam escaped but for the most part, the moisture was contained. If you look at the picture you see a dark brown line around the edge of the small pan. I believe that is the contents of the vitamin water baked onto the glass. The kids and I did not spot a single black (or even dark brown) fleck anywhere.


1) The vitamins did indeed dissolve within the expected 30 minutes. In fact, they dissolved much quicker than I originally thought they might. While two of the tablets flaked into tiny pieces, one became a jelly-like substance that continued to dissolve as long as it sat in the water.

2) The vitamin water did not yield any black flecks that would indicate binders or fillers, I was told. This fits with the literature about these products - that they are pure and full of "good stuff."

For further reading

The Landmark Study is an impressive study that follows multi-vitamin users (Shaklee and others) for decades and tests the nutrient contents found in their blood. It's a study that shows just how impressive, and wonderful, Shaklee nutritional supplements are.

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