Are You Paying Too Much for Vitamins?

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We’ve been trained to think of price as an indicator of quality. But what to make of the vitamins aisle of your local drug store, where prices range from $1 to $75 for a month’s supply of similar ingredients?

Here’s what a recent study by ConsumerLab.com concluded: “There was almost no connection between price and quality” among popular multivitamins.

In the video below, Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson talks to two experts and takes a closer look at the report. Check it out, and then read on for more info on both vitamins and healthy foods.

As Stacy said, you shouldn’t need vitamin supplements if you’ve got a proper diet. Your body can only use so much of a nutrient, and getting too many vitamins is actually unhealthy. But if a multivitamin is part of your daily routine, you still shouldn’t be spending more than $4 per month. Here are the top multivitamin recommendations from ConsumerLab:

Vitamin labels are sometimes misleading

When it comes to supplements, price isn’t the only thing that should concern you: ConsumerLab also found that labels are sometimes flat-out wrong too. The full report requires a $33/year login, but here are some of the details…

  • 8 of 38 vitamin supplements tested had significantly smaller quantities of nutrients than claimed
  • Two supplements contained 50 percent more vitamin A than claimed by the labels
  • Three brands’ labels didn’t meet FDA requirements and improperly listed ingredients
  • One supplement (for dogs) had lead contamination
  • Three supplements for children had doses higher than recommended

Some of the vitamins that failed ConsumerLab’s testing were also among the most expensive, including Pharmanex LifePak Anti-Aging ($84/month), Juice Plus+ Garden Blend ($42/month), Pure Encapsulations Nutrient 950 ($38/month), All One Active Seniors Multiple Vitamin and Mineral Powder ($33/month), and Melaleuca Vitality Multivitamin & Mineral Men ($22/month).

Why are some of these things so expensive? As the pharmacist in the video mentioned, one reason might be advertising budgets. And greed could be another – as ConsumerLab notes, multivitamins are a nearly $5 billion industry.

Getting better nutrition for less

Depending on your grocery budget and tastes, balancing your diet the natural way may not be the cheapest way – but it’s probably the best for your health because being deficient in any of several key nutrients can affect the way your body runs. (ConsumerLab has nutrient info including daily amounts and recommended sources, which are often fruits and vegetables.) And if you’re just as concerned about your financial health, try these tips…

  1. Buy in-season. Modern technology allows us to grow crops in climates and at times they naturally would not. However, the availability, price, and even flavor are usually best when fruits and veggies are naturally grown. Here are lists of seasonal fruits and vegetables.
  2. Go to farmers’ markets. When you buy direct from producers, prices are significantly cheaper and you can be sure of freshness. Plus, you’re supporting people in your own community. To find a farmer’s market nearby, visit LocalHarvest.org.
  3. Plant your own garden. Grow your own tomatoes, beans, and potatoes at home. Radishes and rhubarb are among the easiest to grow. For more information on home gardening, check out Saving Green by Growing Your Own Vegetables.
  4. Plan well. Shop only for what you need (and not when you’re hungry – you’ll buy more) to prepare the meals you have in mind, since fresh fruits and veggies don’t preserve well. Exception: Buy in bulk during sales, and prepare dishes you can freeze. You can also buy already frozen or canned stuff, which lasts longer and may be cheaper. Food should never go to waste, but see When Does Food Really Expire? to stay safe.
  5. Cook smart. When fruits are getting too ripe, you can still use them for baking or making smoothies. Think of meal ideas that stretch pricy items: stews, casseroles, stir-fry. If you need help coming up with easy or healthy options, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has some sample menus and recipe ideas.

Want to save even more on food? We have 28 Tasty Tips.

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Comments & discussion

We welcome your opinions, but let’s keep it civil. Like many businesses, we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone. In our case, that means those who communicate by name-calling, racism, using words designed to hurt others or generally acting like an uninformed bully. Also, comments that include links to email addresses or commercial websites typically aren't posted. This isn't a place to advertise your business.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_WHHWC52UEG4EX6JDXE3ONWCRYI beau10

    Does any source or agency provide a free assessment of vitamins and supplements, or is it necessary to pay the $33 fee to have access to that information?

  • http://alienmindtrick.wordpress.com Alien Mind Trick

    I take Equate Complete Multivitamin from Walmart. They have 31 vitamins, minerals and other supplements in each tablet. Actually, I take only half tablet per day since some recent research links megavitamins like these to cancers. And what is cancer? Runaway cellular growth. Makes sense to me. So yeah, about $3 for a bottle of 200 tablets x .5 tab/day = 400 daily tabs or about 13 months worth.

  • Geraud N. Mandel

    This article is misleading. It only speaks to vitamins. It is not easy to get all the needed minerals in one’s diet and I haven’t see ALL the minerals alone without the multi-vitamins.  A year supply of mult-vitamins/minerals is much cheaper in house brands in  Krogers, CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, Target, etc. Compare the prices and look for the occasional buy-one-get-one deals.