They’re sugary, sweet, and taste like a treat – but are gummy vitamins actually healthy? And do they offer your body the same benefits as traditional vitamins?
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Primary care specialist Neha Vyas, MD, weighs in on whether you should replace your pill-form vitamins with the gummy variety.
Gummy vitamins are designed to be a more palatable (read: sweeter) alternative to regular vitamins in the hopes that people will be more inclined to take them. But when it comes to health benefits, they’re nowhere near a 1:1 swap.
“Gummy vitamins actually have fewer vitamins and minerals than regular vitamins,” Dr. Vyas says.
But it can actually be difficult to determine exactly how much nutritional value you’re getting in a gummy vitamin.
This is due in part to the fact that gummy vitamins have limited shelf stability and become less potent in time. To ensure that they have at least as many nutrients as their labels claim, manufacturers pack them with more vitamins than the label says, which allows for their strength to wear off with time.
“Even if the label says it has a certain amount of vitamins, in reality you’re probably not getting what’s on the label,” Dr. Vyas warns.
There’s a reason those gummies taste so deliciously sweet: “There’s a lot of sugar in them, as you can imagine,” Dr. Vyas confirms.
The American Heart Association recommends no more than 25 grams of sugar per day for women and no more than 36 grams of sugar per day for men — but gummy vitamins typically have 2 to 8 grams of sugar per serving, which can quickly make a dent in your daily allotment.
They can make a dent in your dental health, too: As with other sweets, the sugar and citric acid in gummy vitamins can stick to your teeth and quickly lead to cavities.
And while some gummy vitamins are made with sugar substitutes, such ingredients may present issues of their own. Sugar alcohols are associated with gastrointestinal issues and can have a laxative effect — and people who can’t consume sorbitol and similar sugar substitutes should steer clear of gummy vitamins entirely.
Finally, although gummy vitamins can be easier on your stomach than traditional vitamins, Dr. Vyas says there’s a reason for that: “You’re pretty much taking a sugar pill, so of course it’s not going to give you as many issues — because it’s like candy.”
Children are likely to be drawn to the sweet taste and candy-like consistency of gummy vitamins, but as with adults, it’s best to steer clear.
If your child can’t take traditional pills, try chewable vitamins before turning to gummies. “There’s a little more consistency in chewables,” Dr. Vyas says. The slightly chalky taste might not be as appealing as popping a gummy, but the vitamin trade-off is worth it.
Instead of going with gummies, try making traditional vitamins easier to stomach — literally — by taking them with food but after exercising and by reducing your dosage.
And bear in mind that you might not need to take all those vitamins in the first place.
“The vitamin market is really strong,” Dr. Vyas says, “but vitamins aren’t something physicians prescribe on a regular basis for people who are otherwise healthy and getting their nutrients from food.”
There are exceptions, including people who have limited diets, women who are pregnant or trying to conceive and children who need help getting certain nutrients as they grow. Some people may also need specific supplements where doctors detect a deficiency — but this doesn’t necessarily translate to needing a multivitamin.
If your doctor has recommended that you take vitamins, ask them to walk you through your options to figure out what kind you need and what form is best. If you’re unable to take your medication in pill or liquid form, gummy vitamins may, in fact, be the way to go.
“For most people, they are not a great alternative to regular vitamins,” Dr. Vyas says, “but for people who need them, they’re better than not taking vitamins at all.”