This popular alternative to traditional pills and tablets certainly tastes good...

By Dan Nosowitz

There are many reasons to take a daily multivitamin or supplement. Dietary and medical reasons are two biggies, and sometimes they're taken as a precautionary measure; popping a vitamin can’t hurt, and might help, like when one feels a cold coming on. In recent years, more adults have traded traditional pills and tablets for a tastier (and arguably easier to ingest) alternative, gummy vitamins. But do they really do anything?

Gummy vitamin
Image courtesy of Getty.

A study from ConsumerLab, which tests supplements, found some serious problems with the gummy vitamins they tested. According to ConsumerLab, it’s difficult to measure vitamin levels when manufacturing gummies, which sometimes results in manufacturers loading them up with more vitamin content than they need. And more is not really better in terms of vitamins; taking too many can result in some unpleasant side effects, ranging from stomach cramps to liver and kidney complications.

ConsumerLab also notes that sometimes vitamins are simply sprayed onto the surface of gummies, which makes them inaccurate in terms of dosage and also increases the risk that the vitamins—theoretically the reason you’re eating them in the first place—can rub off.

The other issue is that gummy vitamins are really just gummies, with vitamins added into or sprayed on top of them. That means they’re high in sugar, about equal to a Sour Patch Kid. If you’re eating one a day, that’s not a huge amount of sugar per dose, but it can add up.

Some gummies (like Flintstones for Kids), passed ConsumerLabs’s testing, meaning that they did contain the appropriate amount of the vitamins the package says. But the bigger question is, do we need to supplement our diets with vitamins at all, in any form?

Studies have shown that in the big picture, there’s no evidence that taking multivitamins will reduce your risk of cancer or heart disease, or prolong your life. Given that, most experts, like Johns Hopkins, recommend changing your diet so that it includes a more robust set of vitamins and minerals, rather than relying on those nutrients from a pill (or gummy).

What about specific vitamins, rather than all-in-one multivitamins? A study from the University of Maryland gave some subjects a vitamin C supplement and others a placebo, and infected them with a low-level cold. There was no difference, either in severity or duration, between the two groups. Vitamin D supplements? No evidence those help with bone mineral density or prevention against bone breaks.

Iron supplements have been shown to effectively treat iron deficiencies. Funny enough, many gummy multivitamins exclude iron because it has a distinctive (and not necessarily pleasant) metallic taste.

So, do gummy vitamins work as well as pills? Sometimes, at best. Do multivitamins work at all? Not, say the experts, as well as a good balanced diet.


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