How (and why) we created a vegan multinutrient
I had no intention to create a vegan multinutrient capsule. And yet here I am, twelve months later, writing a blog about why we created a vegan multinutrient capsule.
So what happened? How did one fateful conversation in the mountains of Austria lead us to create the world's most advanced vegan multinutrient capsule, in little over a year's time?
To tell the story, I need to introduce you to one of the people I respect most in the world of nutrition: Niko Rittenau.
Who is Niko Rittenau?
Niko Rittenau is a best-selling author, university lecturer, and one of the world's most in demand public speakers when it comes to plant based diets.
Alongside all of this, Niko had been studying for the past three years for a Masters degree in micronutrient therapy and regulatory medicine. It was here that the idea for our vegan multinutrient was first born.
During his research, Niko began to unconver common patterns of nutrient deficiencies in the Western world. Surprisingly, this wasn't just a result of poor dietary habits; it was also a result of industrial farming practices and a rapid decline in soil quality.
One of these patterns showed a clear correlation in deficiencies between those following a vegan or vegetarian diet, compared to those following an omnivorous diet. Although the levels of many key nutrients were higher, there were also some gaps in their nutrient profiles that could be fixed by sensible supplementation.
The search begins
Armed with the latest scientific data, Niko set out to find an 'all in one' multinutrient that could meet the unique needs of a plant based diet. But after searching the market far and wide, there was nothing that correlated with all of his research.
It wasn't enough to simply include the vitamins and minerals; the supplement also needed to contain the right forms and quantities of each nutrient too.
Not to be defeated, Niko decided to contact the only supplement company he could trust to make the most balanced and comprehensive multinutrient on the planet. It was at this stitch in time that my phone rang.
What happened next?
After telling me his proposal, Niko and I decided to meet and discuss the possibility of bringing this product to life.
I'll be honest; at this point I was still sceptical. Making a multinutrient (or any product for that matter) was no small task, so I wanted to understand:
- What could we do to make this product different from other multinutrients on the market, and
- Why Niko wanted to collaborate with Vivo Life and not another supplement company.
The first question answered itself pretty quickly. Backed by more than 80 pages of the most cutting edge scientific literature, we had an opportunity to do something that had never been done before: formulate a multinutrient where every single ingredient is backed by clinical research and has been chosen specifically to support the needs of a plant based diet.
Unlike other multinutrients that are often formulated on theory rather than real world evidence, we could ensure that every single vitamin and mineral we used was included in a form and dosage that was safe, effective, and targeted to meet the unique needs of the consumer.
When it came to the second question, Niko explained to me that transparency was key. He wanted to work with a brand that had nothing to hide and could independantly verify that their products were exactly what they said on the packaging.
Even more importantly, Niko wanted to work with a brand that third party test all of their products and can back up their claims with data from independant labs. One of the biggest problems with 'conventional' supplements is the lack of research and testing, which can mean that the products on the shelves are wildly different from the claims they make on the label.
It seemed like a match made in heaven. All that was left to do was get to work.
How our Multinutrient was made
By combining Niko's research and expertise with my experience in the supplement industry, we were able to determine the following:
- Which nutrients the multinutrient should contain
- What quantities of each nutrient we should include, and
- Which forms of each nutrient were the safest and most effective for purpose
After many months spent compiling our data, we finally had a formula that we were happy with. Here's what's inside:
Iodine | as potassium iodide | 150mcg (100% NRV)
Iodine is an essential mineral required for the production of thyroid hormones. These hormones regulate our metabolism, support growth and repair damaged cells.
The best plant-based source of iodine is in seaweed. However, the content isn't fixed and varies greatly. This is why experts recommend the majority of people to supplement with iodine.
Calcium | from algae, lithothamnium sp. | 200mg (15% NRV)
The body requires calcium to circulate blood, move muscles, and release hormones. It is also an essential component of healthy bones and teeth.
There's lots of plant-based sources of calcium, including leafy greens, tofu, black beans, tempeh, tahini, almonds, oranges, seeds, broccoli, and more. However, Niko's research showed a common theme between people following a plant based diet, and the potential for calcium deficiency. We therefore decided to include a highly bioavailable form of calcium in a quantity that would support the levels typically consumed in a healthy plant based diet.
Magnesium | marine source | 113mg (24% NRV)
Magnesium is an essential mineral required for healthy muscle and nerve function. It helps to convert food into energy, improves exercise performance, and supports healthy sleep cycles. Magnesium also benefits brain health and can help relieve anxiety and depression.
As with calcium, Niko's research showed that people following a plant based diet can benefit from a small amount of supplementary magnesiu, to bolster levels already present in their diets.
Vitamin B12 | as methylcobalamin, hydroxocobalamin, adenosylcobalamin | 20mcg (833% NRV)
Due to modern sanitation and industrial farming methods, there is no longer a reliable source of vitamin B12 in our food supply. Even factory farmed animals are now supplemented with vitamin B12!
Most vegans and vegetarians know by now how essential it is to supplement with B12. For superior absorption we have included a tri-active form of B12: methylcobalamin, hydroxocobalamin and adenosylcobalamin.
Vitamin B2 | as Riboflavin 5-Phosphate Sodium (R5P) | 1.4mg (108% NRV)
Vitamin B2 is required for red blood cell production, and plays a key role in our bodies’ energy pathways. Although not regularly discussed in mainstream literature, a deficiency in vitamin B2 is one of the most common risk factors for a plant based diet.
Good plant-based sources of vitamin B2 include yeast extract, quinoa, fortified soy milk, avocado, and nutritional yeast. One cooked cup of quinoa contains about 0.2mg of B2 - around 16% of your daily recommended amount. This isn't the easiest vitamin to get on a plant-based diet, so our multinutrient makes it simple to get the right amount for optimum health.
Vitamin K2 | as MK-7 all trans (from natto) | 50mcg (42% NRV)
Vitamin K2 is required for proper absorption of essential nutrients D3 and calcium.
K2 is found in fermented foods, such as natto (fermented soy beans). For optimal bioavailability, this is where our vitamin K2 is sourced – as vitamin K2 from natto is in the most bio-available form of MK-7 all-trans.
Choline | as choline bitartrate | 100mg
Recently re-classified as an essential nutrient, choline is required for liver function, healthy brain development, muscle movement, your nervous system and metabolism. Choline can be difficult to source on a plant based diet, which is why supplementation is recommended.
Zinc | as zinc picolinate | 10mg (91% NRV)
Zinc is a trace mineral that is essential for hormonal balance, wound healing, and a healthy immune system. It is necessary for the activity of over 300 enzymes that aid in metabolism, digestion and nerve function.
Due to a decline in soil quality it can be hard to get enough zinc from food alone. Our vegan multinutrient makes it straight forward to consume optimal levels of zinc, from a highly bioavailable source.
Selenium | as selenomethionine | 60mcg (109% NRV)
Selenium is a powerful antioxidant that protects heart, brain and thyroid health. It also plays an important role in the function of our immune and respiratory systems. Like zinc, it is recommended to supplement with selenium as there is no longer a reliable source in our soils.
Vitamin A | as retinyl acetate | 750mcg (83% NRV)
Vitamin A is essential for eye, brain and skin health. Most people can convert vitamin A when they consume beta-carotene in plants, but as others are poor converters, taking a supplement is a sensible precaution.
Vitamin D3 | as cholecalciferol (from algae) | 2000IU (250% NRV)
Nicknamed ‘the sunshine vitamin’, D3 is a natural mood booster and has been clinically proven to prevent depression.
The most reliable source of vitamin D3 is from the sun. However, if you live in the northern hemisphere, then it is virtually impossible to make all of the D3 your body needs from sunlight alone (especially from September-April).
Now that the our product was formulated in theory, we had to check that it could do what we expected in practice.
After all, it was one thing having all of the right nutrients on paper... but what good if the required amounts of these nutrients were not present in each and every capsule?
Third party testing is one of the biggest reasons our products take so much longer to make than other supplements on the market. It gives us real world evidence that can support all of the theory, and from my experience it is almost never perfect first time.
Take this multinutrient for example. When we got the lab data back from our first test batch, we found that the iodine levels were far too inconsistent to go to market.
There were some capsules we tested that had the perfect amount of iodine. There were others that had next to no iodine. And there were others still that had more than double the amount we claimed.
Something strange was going on, so we looked at our formula under a microscope and found the problem.
The form of iodine that we used was so highly active, there wasn't enough of it to disperse evenly throughout each capsule. To give you some perspective; we made 100KG of multinutrient, and only 13 grams of this entire formula was iodine.
This meant that there were literally not enough grains of iodine in the blend to fill each capsule evenly. Although the law of averages said that you would consume the correct amount of iodine after finishing a whole packet of the multinutrient, this wasn't good enough for us. So we went back to the drawing board and re-formulated with a less 'active' form of iodine that would disperse more evenly throughout each capsule.
Sure enough, when we retested the formula each capsule had the exact amount of iodine that we needed. And with the levels of all other nutrients correct, we were now completely ready to go to market.
One of the things I am most proud of about this product is that we were able to launch with fully home compostable packaging right off the bat.
From my research this is a first for multinutrient of this kind, which are usually packaged in plastic or glass. Reducing waste as much as possible was extremely important to both us and to Niko, so we knew that we had to launch with compostable packaging from day one.
Where does this leave thrive?
Before I go I want to address the elephant in the room. Where does this leave our original multinutrient (and one of our most popular products), THRIVE?
The answer is simple. Both products have their place. There is no need to take the two together.
Whether you choose THRIVE or our new Vegan Multinutrient depends on your budget, health goals, and preference of capsules vs powders.
THRIVE is our most complete multinutrient, which provides not only vitamins and minerals but also extra superfoods, greens, probiotics and neuroprotective herbs. For that reason it is more expensive as you are getting many important supplements in one packet.
Our vegan multinutrient, on the other hand, provides a cheaper alternative to THRIVE, for those who just want the micronutrients without all of the additional superfoods, greens, probiotics and neuroprotective herbs. You do not need to take both at the same time.
Personally I love to take THRIVE when I am travelling, and on the days when I know my diet isn't quite where it should be. On all other days I cover my basis with the multinutrient.
I hope this blog allowed you to understand our vegan multinutrient a little better!
We are all incredibly proud of this product, and we know it is going to be a really important tool in the future of plant based diets worldwide.