Gummy vitamins are delicious. My parents take them, and when I sampled one out of curiosity on a recent trip home, I had to stop myself from popping 10 more. Apparently, I’m not the only one who finds them irresistible, as evidenced by the popularity of gummy vitamin brands like Olly, Hum, and Hello Bello, with their bright, Insta-worthy packaging and chewy, fruit-snack like morsels. Sure, they taste good — but do gummy vitamins actually do anything? How do they stack up against old school tablets and capsules? I asked experts to help me investigate.
First, I wanted to know whether we need vitamins, period. Indeed, “there’s a debate in the medical community over whether [multivitamins] are necessary,” Evelyn R. Hermes-DeSantis, clinical professor at the Rutgers Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy, tells Mic. If you’re eating a healthy, balanced diet, you can probably get all the vitamins you need from food. A multivitamin is “probably more of an insurance policy.” Certain people — such as those with eating disorders or Crohn’s disease, or who are undergoing cancer treatment — do need to take multivitamins, says Seattle-based registered dietitian Ginger Hultin, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and owner of the virtual practice ChampagneNutrition.
Hultin doesn’t often suggest multivitamins to her clients, but she does recommend individual vitamins and minerals based on their needs. Vegans often need B12 supplements, for example.
You can definitely overdo a good thing, though, and vitamins are no exception. That’s especially true for fat-soluble vitamins, including vitamins, A, D, E, and K, which present a greater danger of toxicity, Hermes-DeSantis says. Consuming high doses of vitamins over a prolonged period can cause liver and kidney damage, and an excess of carotene can even give your skin and eyes a yellow hue. Be mindful of any supplements, protein powders, or other sources of fortified vitamins and minerals you may be also be taking, Hultin says.
As far as whether multivitamin gummies are superior to tablets or capsules, Hermes-DeSantis says a direct comparison is tricky, since a tablet might contain vitamins that a gummy of the same brand doesn’t, or vice-versa. One might also contain more or less of a particular vitamin than the other.
Read the label to make sure a product will give you what you need, Hermes-DeSantis says. Consider your dietary intake of vitamins, too. A tablet might contain less vitamin C than a gummy of the same brand, but that may not matter so much if you already drink a glass of orange juice every morning.
That said, Hermes-DeSantis has noticed that in general, multivitamin gummies contain fewer types of vitamins and minerals than multivitamin tablets. And ConsumerLab.com, a company that tests supplements, reported that some gummy supplements, especially gummy multivitamins, don’t have the amounts of vitamins and minerals specified on their labels.
That’s because “gummies are difficult to manufacture with precision,” Hultin explains. Gummies degrade more easily than tablets or capsules, so manufacturers often add an excess of vitamins to compensate. Sometimes, they simply spray vitamins onto the gummy surface.
Gummies also have added sugar, which might interfere with your dietary goals, as well as food coloring, which could be dangerous if you have a food dye allergy, Hultin points out. Because they contain these ingredients, she typically doesn’t recommend gummies for her adult clients.
On the other hand, if you have trouble swallowing tablets, “you’re better off taking the gummy than nothing,” Hermes-DeSantis says. Again, it all depends on your needs.
If you choose to take a vitamin, make sure it’s formulated for you and your stage of life, Hultin says. In other words, if you’re an adult, a kids' multi won’t cut it. (Many kids' gummies contain low levels of certain nutrients that can be toxic to them at high levels.) Also, check the label for testing by third parties, such as NSF, USP, and ConsumerLab.com, which indicates that the manufacturer is focused on quality and appropriate standards. “That is something you can do that is going to increase your chances of getting the product you think you’re getting.”
Consider, too, how the vitamin might react to any medications you’re taking, Hermes-DeSantis says. Many women’s vitamins contain soy, for instance, which may react to drugs containing estrogen or other hormones.
The take-home message? “Read the label, and make sure that whatever you’re taking, whether it’s a gummy or a tablet, meets the needs that you have,” Hermes-DeSantis says. If you have the means, Hultin says a registered dietitian or other professional can help you navigate the options. Like anything wellness-related, the right vitamin for you will center your unique needs.