Multivitamins and supplements come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. One choice that has become increasingly popular is gummy vitamins, but are these yummy gummies the best choice for you and your family?
The benefits of gummies are clear: they taste better, are easy to swallow and don’t have an unusual smell. These attributes may make you or your family, especially children, take vitamins consistently. However, the health benefits of these flavor-packed supplements may not stack up against traditional vitamin pills or tablets.
“While they may be more convenient, the downside of gummy vitamins may outweigh the benefits,” says Marie Lee, MD, a family medicine physician at Scripps Coastal Medical Center Jefferson in Oceanside.
Consider the shortcomings before purchasing your gummy yummies:
Be wary of what the labels say. Since gummy vitamins are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, the nutrients they contain may not match what is on the label, making it difficult to determine the exact amount of nutrients and vitamins you are getting in a dose. In addition, gummy vitamins tend to degrade faster and have a shorter shelf life than conventional pills, so by the time you take your gummy, its vitamin content may have lost potency.
Some essential nutrients are not included in gummies. For instance, few gummies contain iron because the metallic taste is difficult to mask. Other supplements that have a strong flavor include some B-vitamins and zinc, so extra sweetening agents may be added to make the gummy still yummy.
Sugars may be the number one reason to take a closer look at gummy vitamins. Gummies owe their flavor to sugar or sugar alcohols, including sorbital. Most have 2 to 3 grams of sugar to a serving, which is the equivalent or more than what is included in some types of candy. The American Heart Association recommends 25 grams of sugar per day for women and 36 grams for men.
“It’s like having a sugar pill or candy 365 days a year,” says Dr. Lee. “That’s a lot of sugar that can add up quickly. Children in particular may eat more than the recommended dose because the vitamins taste so good and even look like popular candies.”
Gummies labeled sugar-free leave out the sugar, but the citric acid that replaces it wears down tooth enamel.
The concerns associated with multivitamins are also on target for other gummy supplements.
Many brands offer Vitamin C gummies, usually enhanced with other minerals and vitamins. Generally, the healthiest way to get enough Vitamin C is from your diet. Vitamin C is completely absorbed at single doses of 100 mg; any amount greater than that is excreted.
Magnesium plays a significant role in calming your nerves and firing up your muscles when the need arises. Normally, if you are eating a balanced diet, then your body should get all the magnesium it needs.
Melatonin is a hormone that regulates sleep and is often taken for insomnia and jet lag. Short-term use of melatonin is generally considered safe for adults as it is not habit-forming and usually people do not develop a tolerance for it. However, do not give melatonin to children under 2 and check with your pediatrician before providing to older kids or adolescents.
Apple cider vinegar is used by many people for blood sugar management. Gummies would negate any benefit because of the added sugars.
If you eat a healthy and balanced diet, you are most likely getting the vitamins and minerals you need. Although some populations, such as pregnant women, people with limited diets, post-menopausal women or those who have trouble absorbing some nutrients, may need an extra boost.
“Most adults and children do not need supplements, although there are exceptions,” says Dr. Lee. Your doctor can determine if you are deficient and discuss what type of supplement is best if you need one.”
If you do need a multivitamin or supplement and have issues with traditional pills or tablets, try making them easier to swallow by taking with food or reducing your dosage. You can also try cutting a pill in half. If your child won’t take a traditional pill, try chewables.