They look and taste like candy and are believed to supply your body with essential vitamins and minerals. But if it sounds too good to be true, that’s because it probably is, at least according to some experts and studies.
“Gummies have invaded the supplement area,” Dr. Tod Cooperman, president of ConsumerLab.com, told TODAY in a segment that aired Tuesday.
And they are no longer just for children. Global sales of gummy vitamins topped $7 billion in 2022 alone, and even celebrities, like Kourtney Kardashian Barker, are getting in on the game. Her new line of “Leave meThe gummies promise to boost focus, de-puff and help you ‘chill out.’ (Lemme did not respond to TODAY’s request for comment.)
The health benefits of vitamins and supplements for the general population have long been disputed by experts. Despite the $150 billion industrybest efforts, research continues to show that vitamin pills advertised to keep us healthy may not be doing much at all, TODAY reported previously.
Some doctors and nutritionists warn that candy-like versions come with even more caveats.
What are gummy vitamins?
Gummy vitamins have exploded in popularity in recent years. In the vitamin and supplement aisle of your drugstore, you will now find a wide range of these candy-like products, which look and feel similar to fruit snacks and other popular gummies, available in a variety of flavors, shapes and colors, and contain a range of vitamins and minerals for different ages and conditions.
Are there any benefits to vitamin gummies?
“Gummy candies are a great choice for people who have difficulty swallowing pills or capsules,” Dr. Andrea Wong, senior vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs at the Council for Responsible Nutrition, said today. They also taste great, making them a great option for picky eaters, Wong added.
What are the disadvantages of gummy vitamins?
Reasons to think twice about taking gummy vitamins range from the high sugar content to their sometimes questionable ingredient lists.
The high sugar content of many of these gummies – making them a more appetizing option – can put a real dent in your recommended daily sugar intake.
A gummy vitamin typically contains three to five grams of added sugaraccording to Caroline Susie, registered dietitian, nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
“The American Heart Association recommends no more than six teaspoons of added sugar per day for women and nine teaspoons of added sugar per day for men, or about 25 to 37 grams of sugar per day,” says Susie in Tuesday’s segment.
So if you’re consuming a few gummy vitamins throughout the day, that added sugar is definitely going to add up, Susie said. This can be a problem for people trying to limit their sugar intake, experts noted.
Sugar-free gummies aren’t a free pass either. These often contain a sweetening agent called sugar alcohol, and consuming too much sugar alcohol can cause unpleasant gastrointestinal effects in some people, such as abdominal cramps, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, Susie said.
Ingredients don’t always match the bottle
What’s more concerning is that the amount of certain ingredients in gummy vitamins may not match the numbers listed on the back of the bottle, experts say.
“We find that there are a lot more quality issues with gummies than there are with tablets or capsules,” Cooperman said. Testing by ConsumerLab has found that many gummy supplements don’t actually contain the amount of vitamins they claim on the label. , Cooperman added.
The composition of the gummies allows the ingredients to lose potency faster than pills, Cooperman said, adding, “It’s a problem even with tablets over time, but they’re more stable.”
“Companies are realizing things break down faster in the gummies…so they put in two, three times as much when they make the products,” Cooperman said.
Too much of some ingredients, not enough of others
Federal regulations require most dietary supplements to have at least 100% of the amount on the bottle, Wong said, so companies will put more than that amount in the product to ensure it hits 100%, even if the ingredients degrade over time.
And there may be too many good things, experts have warned.
“Any ingredient that we can consume too much of, like melatonin, folic acid, just about any vitamin…there can definitely be health consequences,” Cooperman said.
Tests have also found that some companies don’t add enough of certain vitamins or minerals, and the gummies contain lower amounts than they claim on the label, Cooperman added.
“You have to remember that the FDA does not have the authority to approve dietary supplements for safety, efficacy, or product labeling,” Susie said, so when it comes to these vitamins – buyer , beware or pay attention.
“Unfortunately, you really don’t know what’s in the bottle unless you’ve tested it,” Cooperman added.
What to Look for in a Gummy Vitamin
How can consumers know which gummy vitamins they can trust? “As with all dietary supplements, consumers should seek trusted brands from reputable retailers,” Wong said, and always consult a physician before adding any vitamins or minerals to their diet.
According to experts, eating a variety of whole, unprocessed foods remains the best source of vitamins and minerals for most healthy adults. Canned and frozen foods are also packed with vitamins, Susie added, and are often more affordable.
“One vitamin or one supplement can’t solve all the problems. … You’re going to get more vitamins and minerals from food than just taking a pill,” Susie said. “Food before supplements when medically appropriate.”
Who should take gummy vitamins?
Supplements can help fill in the gaps for people who aren’t getting enough vitamins or minerals in their diet, Susie noted. They can also make up for deficiencies caused by medical conditions (such as Crohn’s disease or inflammatory bowel disease) or medications that make it harder for the body to absorb nutrients, Wong said.
Prenatal vitamins like folic acid and iron can be taken to support a healthy pregnancy, according to Mayo Clinic.
If you need to take vitamins, be sure to follow directions and take the recommended amount, experts said.
“Gums can be OK, if used responsibly,” Cooperman said. “(But) I think you’re better off with pills and capsules.”
Chewable vitamins are another option for people who have trouble swallowing pills, and tests have shown they’re much more accurate in their labeling than gummy vitamins, Cooperman added.
Gummy vitamins should always be stored according to directions, Wong said, because they can be more sensitive to things like heat and light, which can cause degradation.
Parents and caregivers should also make sure children don’t consume too many gummy vitamins, which can easily be mistaken for candy, experts noted.
“You definitely want to keep them in a safe place where kids can’t get their hands on them. …Although rare, there are levels of toxicity with the fat-soluble vitamins, vitamins A, E, D and K,” said Susie.