Archive for the ‘Women’s Health’ Category

Most Prenatal Vitamins Fail to Deliver

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

When I practiced medicine as a board certified Ob/Gyn in Atlanta, Ga., I recommended a high-quality, full-spectrum multi-antioxidant, chelated mineral supplement brand to my pregnant patients.  In addition, I suggested they take highly purified fish oil capsules, extra calcium-magnesium, and an over-the-counter iron tablet to complete what I felt was a fully rounded prenatal nutrient regimen for the mother’s and baby’s optimal health.

Studies indicate that most prescription prenatal vitamins do not adequately release the folic acid (folate) they supposedly contain.   Most prenatal vitamins do not have a full-range of minerals; and what they contain is usually not in what I consider adequate amounts.  Pregnancy is a time for extra calcium (on the order of 1000 to 1500 mg per day) and magnesium (on the order of 200 to 600 mg per day), not the relatively small amounts contained in prenatal vitamins. 

It wasn’t until the last 4 or 5 years that it has become standard to put pregnant women on DHA (an omega-3 fatty acid) supplement for the development of the baby’s brain and eyes (among many other benefits).  This was something that I was recommending to my patients well over 12 years ago.  It only became ”acceptable” for doctors to do this once a pharmaceutical company marketed DHA capsules to Ob/Gyn offices, as if anything done outside of what’s provided by a pharmaceutical company is “alternative medicine,” ….a topic for another day. 

Although a pregnant woman needs to be careful about fish oil capsules, as organic residues and PCBs can be a problem, I only recommended a supplement brand that I knew was “pharmaceutical grade.”  Fish oil capsules do not need to be produced by a pharmaceutical company; the nutritional supplement brand that I recommended to my patients follows Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) that were designed for the pharmaceutical industry, and are producing pure and potent supplements, including fish oil capsules.

The fish oil that I recommended to my patients is highly purified through a double distillation process, and free of PCBs and organic residues.  (Needless to say, the capules are free of mercury and other heavy metals that can become a problem by consuming fish.)   My general recommended dose of fish oil was at least 2000 mg per day; though I preferred my pregnant and lactating patients to bump that level up to 4000 mg per day.

One last concern that I’ll mention at this time, and that is the fact that, according to laboratory analysis of prescription prenatal vitamins, most prenatal vitamins lack adequate iodine levels or they are highly inconsistent in the levels of iodine they contain.  Most prescription prenatal vitamins have the minimum level of iodine (150 micrograms per day) that is required for pregnant and lactating women listed on the label; however, when analyzed the TRUE AMOUNT contained in the tablets was found to be much less!

Fetal thyroid development and functioning is dependent on adequate dietary intake of iodine by the mother.  This, in turn, is critical for the brain functioning and normal neurological development in the newborn.  It has been shown that even a modest iodine deficiency can adversely affect the development of the baby’s cognitive development.  Mild to moderate mental retardation, or developmental delay are very possible outcomes due to an iodine deficiency.

The Institute of Medicine recommends a daily intake of 220 micrograms per day during pregnancy (the amount that is in the broad-spectrum essential multi-antioxidant and chelated mineral supplement regimen I recommend), and 290 micrograms per day while breast feeding.   The World Health Organization recommends a flat 250 micrograms per day during both periods of pregnacy and lactation.  

Iodine deficiency is the leading preventable cause of mental retardation worldwide, affecting more than 2.2 billion people.  Only 28% of prescription prenatal vitamins and 69% of over-the-counter multi-vitamins marketed in the United States even listed iodine as an ingredient on the label.   This is concerning enough, and the fact that most do not even have the stated amounts of iodine within the tablet (from 50 to 76% of what is stated), is even more evidence that everyone needs to find a supplement brand that they can trust.