It didn't take much reading for me to decide that the people who make these things don't usually put the right ratios and amounts of ingredients in them. Here are some statements that are all widely accepted as true (I encourage you to do some reading of your own to confirm this). Everyone should be aware of these things whether or not they currently choose to take vitamin/mineral supplements:
Luckily there is plenty of info in easy reach that reports on the scientific and medical research about all this. I quickly decided that the best way for someone to shop for vitamin/mineral supplements is to do the research to determine what levels of daily supplementation intake they should get of each nutrient and then go looking for the pills to match the safe but useful target ranges. Anyone who wants to figure out how to be as healthy as possible should examine each of the major vitamins and minerals themselves and look at some of the facts and recommendations about them, then decide for themselves what a reasonable range of supplementation is for each.
I've made avalable what I found out about each from looking at 12 different sources of information, and also the desired ranges of supplementation that I decided on as a result of all the info I read. I encourage you to compare your own supplement levels with what I've listed and use that as a starting off point to look at the individual nutrients in more detail.
The results are my desired amount ranges for each nutrient.
And you can read the more raw info I collected about each nutrient which says why you want or don't want certain amounts, and the source each piece of info came from.
Sorry, they're both just text files. No fancy HTML or anything.
Note that there are many reasons different people should take different levels of supplementation, such as differences in gender or age. When there were differences, I just paid attention to stuff relevant to men under 50 since that's the category I'm in. If you're in a different category, realize that not everything will be different for you, but you should check the sources directly to see what things are different. Iron need for example is very different for menstruating women. And of course specific medical conditions or use of specific prescription drugs will also have an impact. Best thing to do is read a lot and decide for yourself.
I couldn't find any multi-vitamin/mineral product on the market that met my desired ranges, so I relaxed them a bit and looked at everything again, but still couldn't find any, so I read a bit more and relaxed the ranges a bit more. In the end, I still couldn't find a single product that even came close, which is somewhat scary (or sad) since I have very reasonable ranges that should be pretty close to what would be appropriate for most American men under 50. Then I settled on trying to find something that covered as many of the different nutrients I actually wanted more than zero quantity of without having too much of anything. I was willing to add in the remaining things it didn't have enough of with extra bottles bought in addition. The goal would be to keep the number of different bottles of tablets/capsules/etc. as small as possible while getting into all the right ranges.
The multi that I settled on was Nature's Way Iron Free Optimum Potentcy (3 capsules per day). The nutrient amounts for this multi are listed in the ranges_wanted file next to the desired ranges. To this I add a Calcium/Magnesium supplement (300mg Calcium, 150mg Magnesium per day) and 500mg of Vitamin C, both of these also in divided daily doses. This regimen provides a little more Vanadium than I want, but is as close as I could get to what I thought was reasonable with products that I could find on the market now and without having to use vastly more than 3 different kinds of products. If you are a man under 50, you might consider the same regimen if you haven't already read enough to decide you want some specifically different ranges than I do.
If you think I've just been duped by the vitamin industry and this is all dumb, read for yourself the unbiased references that I've listed in the nutrient_info file and which are on the web (2, 5, 6, 7, and 12). Overall, my sources are predominantly unbiased and include respectable organizations like the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and webmd.com. In particular, I encourage everyone to check out the thorough supplement encyclopedia by HealthNotes that I have listed as reference 12, which you can find on the web hosted in a number of places, including the Puritan's Pride website (click vitamin info guide or something like that, can't provide a link because the site encodes session ids in the URLs and these expire after a day or so). This info used to hosted at vitamins.com too, but that company seems to have become webrx and their info links are broken at the moment, and it isn't clear whether they include the HealthNotes stuff anymore.
I have cached a number of the sources here in case the web links break.
Anyway, I thought I'd share this because most people don't bother to go out and collect this info themselves.