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Multivitamin Test: Cheap Often Best For People And Pets

Colorful vitamins on a plate

A new analysis of popular multivitamins turned up some good news for budget-minded older adults, but not such good news for their pets and grandchildren.

First the good news: Price is not an indicator of quality. Several popular brands of multis for seniors sold at discounters like Costco, BJ's and Walmart scored high in quality and were the lowest in price.

Now the bad news, including some that could worry Fido: The analysis included three dog vitamins and one of the more costly brands not only had misleading amounts of a vitamin, it also had an unsafe amount of lead.

In addition, one in three products tested didn't contain the amount of nutrients claimed on the label. Thirteen brands had either too much or little of certain nutrients, including some kids' vitamins. While low levels can be a problem, levels that exceed recommendations can be more worrisome.

The review by New York-based analyzed 38 leading multivitamin/multimineral products sold in the U.S. and Canada, including three multis intended for pets. In this country, multivitamins are considered dietary supplements, not medicines, and are not routinely tested by the government for quality.

ConsumerLab sent the products, without their brand identification, to an independent lab where they were analyzed for several important nutrients, including folic acid, calcium, iron, zinc and vitamin A.

Thirteen of the 38 products failed the test. They had nutrient amounts listed on the label that didn't match the lab results, including some products for children that exceeded safe limits established by the Institute of Medicine for niacin, vitamins A and E, and zinc.

So before you take your daily vitamins (or give one to man's best friend), check out a sampling of the results:

*Less nutrient than claimed: Trader Joe's Vitamin Crusade contained 59 percent of the vitamin A listed on the label, All One Active Seniors had less than 2 percent of its claimed beta-carotene,  73 percent of retinol and 59 percent of vitamin A.

* More nutrient than claimed: Centrum Chewable contained 173 percent of the vitamin A (as retinol) listed on the label. Too much vitamin A can cause liver problems, Dr. Michael Cirigliano of the University of Pennsylvania's medical school told 

*Concern over children's multivitamins: Nature's Plus Source of Life Children's Chewable exceeded the recommended dose for niacin for children under 8. Hero Nutritionals Yummi Bears, if given at the suggested daily dose of up to three bears, would exceed the recommended level for vitamin A and zinc for children under three.

*Pet vitamin problems:  Pet-Tabs Complete Daily Vitamin-Mineral Supplement for Dogs contained more vitamin A than listed on the label, as well as an excessive amount of lead. PetGuard Multi-Vitamin and Multi-Mineral for Dogs contained only 68 percent of its claimed vitamin A.

*Cheap, but high quality for seniors: For senior women, Nature Made Multi for Her 50+ (12 cents per day). For seniors in general, Equate Mature Multivitamin 50+ (Walmart store brand), Kirkland Signature Mature Multi Vitamins and Minerals Adult 50+ (Costco store brand) and Members Mark Mature Multi (Sam's Club store brand) all cost three cents per day. They are similar to Centrum Silver (11 cents per day).

The most expensive product, All One Active Seniors ($1.10 per day), a powder with many ingredients beyond those usually seen in multis, was not only pricey, it failed testing because it contained only 2 percent of its claimed beta-carotene and only 59 percent of its claimed total vitamin A.

*Cheap, but high quality, for kids: Flintstones Plus Bone Building Support (14 cents per day). Hero Nutritional Yummi Bears cost much more ( 34 cents a day).

*Cheap, but high quality for pets: 21st Century Pet Chews (8 cents per day). The other two products in this category not only cost more, they failed the lab test.

From AARP:

A-to-Z Vitamin Guide

Are Calcium Supplements Safe?

How Much Vitamin D - or Calcium - Do You Really Need?

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