Should you take gummy vitamins?

Gummy vitamins make being healthy fun — they’re sweet, fun to eat and promise to deliver essential vitamins and minerals. But not all supplements are created equal. Choose the wrong ones, and you may do more harm than good.

The number of available vitamins is overwhelming — supplements and multivitamins now come in all sizes, shapes and colors. Gummy vitamins are eye-catching, and 13% of American adults choose their vitamins and supplements based on what appeals to them in the store. But how do gummy vitamins stack up against traditional pills?

Benefits of gummy vitamins

Traditional pills and capsules don’t always make it easy to take your vitamins. They can be challenging to swallow, have an unpleasant smell and taste, and cause upset stomach — especially if not taken with food.

Gummy vitamins address those concerns. They taste like candy, and for children and adults who can’t swallow pills, gummy vitamins provide an alternative to chalky chewable supplements. Experts still recommend taking gummy supplements with food, but they tend to be easier on your stomach since they lack the binding agents found in tablets.

Concerns about taking gummy vitamins

Gummy supplements taste better than traditional vitamins but come with some downsides too. Gummy vitamins can:

Contain added sugar

Too much sugar in your diet can lead to obesity, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. If you’re not careful, added sugar can creep into your diet from unexpected sources, including gummy vitamins.

Most gummy vitamins contain between 2 and 8 grams of sugar per serving. That may not seem like much, but the American Heart Association recommends no more than 25 grams of sugar for women and 36 grams for men daily. Even if your gummy vitamins are sugar-free, they likely contain other sweeteners, such as high-sugar fruit juice or sugar alcohols, which can cause unpleasant digestive issues.

Include additives and artificial flavoring

The base ingredients that make gummy vitamins taste sweet include gelatin, cornstarch, water and sugar. But many nutrients — such as iron, B vitamins and zinc — have a metallic taste that’s not ideal. Manufacturers use artificial flavoring and coloring to mask the taste of these nutrients and create a more pleasing product.

Lose potency over time

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate supplements — so it’s never easy to determine the exact nutrients you’re getting. But the vitamins and minerals in gummy vitamins are especially tough to nail down.

Gummy vitamins have a limited shelf life when compared to traditional supplements. They become less potent with time. To address the decline, manufacturers often pack gummy supplements with more vitamins than listed. That means that newly packed gummy vitamins may have more nutrients than you need, and older containers may not have anywhere near the amount listed on the nutrition label.

Make it easy to overdose

It’s tempting to take more than the recommended dose of vitamins when they taste like candy. But you need to be careful because it is possible to overdose on specific vitamins, including vitamins A, D, E and K. Too much iron and zinc can also cause side effects, such as diarrhea, stomach pain and vomiting.

Common symptoms of a vitamin overdose are diarrhea and vomiting. But over time, too many of these vitamins and minerals can increase the risk of liver failure.

Bottom line: Are gummy vitamins effective?

People who eat a balanced diet that includes the major food groups rarely need supplements. But if your primary care physician (PCP) recommends supplements and you can’t take traditional vitamins, gummy vitamins may be a good option.

They offer more vitamins and minerals than taking no supplements. And research shows that your body can absorb nutrients in gummy vitamins as easily as those found in traditional vitamins.

To get the most out of gummy vitamins, take these steps:

  • Talk to your PCP about which nutrients you need and how much you should take
  • Read the nutrition label to ensure the gummies contain the nutrients you need and are low in sugar
  • Choose gummies that are third-party tested (look for a certification stamp) and manufactured by reputable retailers
  • Pay attention to the recommended dosage, and stick to it to avoid taking too much

To learn more about the supplements and vitamins you should be taking, reach out to your primary care physician.