Gummy Vitamins Are More Effective Than You’d Think — Here’s Why
For years, I rolled my eyes at the very idea that a gummy vitamin could be remotely healthy. I wasn’t interested in trying vitamins or supplements in candy form simply because I presumed they had low quantities of active ingredients, and that the amount of sugar would basically cancel out the health benefits. How useless, I thought. But as it turns out, I was wrong. So very wrong.
The gummy supplement space has been growing and I like to keep an eye on health trends, so eventually, I came across actual research about how effective they are. We’ll delve into it below, but in short: some gummy vitamins are even more impactful than pills.
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Here’s how vitamins work
Perhaps the most ironic part of my outright refusal to give gummies a go is that I’m a huge proponent of eating healthful food over taking supplements. That’s because food and drink often have better bioavailability, which basically means it’s easier for your body to actually use.
For example, dietary iron comes in two forms: heme iron, which is found primarily in meats, and non-heme iron, which is mostly found in plants. Heme iron is more bioavailable, so your body can use it more easily, which is why many doctors recommend a higher iron intake for vegetarians.
When you pop a vitamin or supplement, it can only be as effective as your digestive system — and for many, that’s not a great thing. Your system has to break down the pill with stomach acid, then your intestines have to absorb the nutrients into your bloodstream as it passes through you.
I’m a huge proponent of kombucha or kimchi over probiotic capsules and of sublingual or spray vitamin B rather than pill form for exactly this reason. More bioavailability leads to better results. And what are gummies? A gelatinous, fiber-free, easily-broken-down food. So it shouldn’t have been any surprise that they’re as effective as they’ve been proven to be.
“Bioavailability is a nutrient’s characteristics that will affect the amount absorbed by the body into the bloodstream, then transport it to designated areas,” says Daniel Boyer, M.D. He also notes that it’s helpful to get nutrients from other places — in addition to whole foods. “Some people struggle to absorb some nutrients. This can be due to poor diet, or simply because not all of the nutrients taken won’t be absorbed. Some will be destroyed by the stomach acid, others will be excreted, and some simply don’t go inside cells at all.”
Why gummies work (even at lower dosages)
The notion that gummy vitamins are more bioavailable than pills at an equal-sized serving has been demonstrated in lab settings.
For instance, a study on vitamin D gummies concluded: “VitD3 gummies [have] greater bioavailability than tablets with higher vitD concentrations over time, which may have implications for achieving vitD sufficiency.” Because of the limited amount of space for active ingredients in a gummy versus a pill, there is generally a smaller concentration of the vitamin. However, if you factor in higher bioavailability, you can easily end up with a stronger dose of a nutrient from a gummy than from a pill or capsule.
Gummies have also entered the beauty space, perhaps most iconically in the Vegamour GRO Biotin Gummies. The role of biotin in improving hair growth is still up in the air, with studies noting more research is needed. But by adding an assortment of additional vitamins into the gummies, including A, B, C, and E, as well as supplemental zinc and folic acid, chances of effectiveness may be increased. Even if biotin ends up being less valuable than we’d like, you’re still getting a healthy dose of the vitamins you need.
For supplements that are wellness buzzwords, such as turmeric, gummies offer consumers a fun way to try them out. Supplement maker Gaia, for instance, sells two different strengths of turmeric gummies, and the “extra strength” ones offer “24 [times] absorption” of 95 milligrams of curcumin. This makes for a quick, easy, and bioavailable way to take a highly helpful supplement.
Read next: How to Add Turmeric to Your Diet (and Why You Should)
Of course, there is the issue of sugar, and the truth is, gummy supplements do contain assorted types of sugar for both taste and structure. However, it just isn’t all that much. If you’re someone who monitors your intake of added sugar in your diet, the four grams on average in a serving of gummy vitamins isn’t going to disrupt your regimen.
How can you tell the good gummies from the imposters?
As with many other facets of life, you get what you pay for when it comes to gummies. The brands we’ve mentioned tend to range in price from $15 to $30 a bottle, which is at a distinctly different level than the five-buck versions.
“You should go for gummies that are low in added sugar and are made from high-quality ingredients,” says Victoria Glass, M.D. “Also, most gummy vitamins are made from gelatin, which is an animal product, so gummies made from pectin are a good option if you are a vegan.”
When shopping for gummy vitamins, look specifically at the number of active ingredients. While it will likely be lower than pill supplements due to increased bioavailability, it should be only a small percentage in comparison.
Boyer recommends going sugar-free if possible. “Too much sugar consumption may lead to a rise in blood sugar, and may also result in cavity problems,” he says. “It’s ok if the gummy has a lower quantity of the active ingredients than a pill because gummies have a greater bioavailability than tablets with higher vitamin concentration.”
Boyer explains that it can be hard to tell if any gummy vitamins are made with high-quality ingredients because gummy vitamins are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. However, “brands with third-party certification will ensure inclusion of high-quality ingredients that you can just confirm by reading their labels,” he says.
He also notes that it’s a good idea to choose a formula made without alcohol, especially for pregnant people and children, and he recommends that people avoid gummies made with artificial colors.
Can you overdose on gummies?
Understandably, anything that looks and tastes like candy may be a cause for concern for anyone who has children in their house. And because gummy candies are a treat that many eat by the bagful, they may be tempting with “healthy” gummies too.
You should exercise caution, however, never taking more than a serving size and keeping containers well out of reach of children. “It’s possible to overdose on gummy vitamins if you take too many of them,” Dr. Glass says. “If you take five gummies instead of the recommended two, you’ll probably get diarrhea.”
Dr. Boyer says that high accessibility makes gummies getting into the wrong hands even more of an issue.
“They are readily available online, at health food stores, and are not strictly regulated,” he says. “Taking more than two, which is the daily recommended amount of most gummy vitamins, may lead to vitamin intoxication. Gummies are fat-soluble vitamins and when taken in excess, the body will not be in a position to get rid of the excess amounts quickly.” You’ll always want to read labels closely to ensure you’re taking the right dose.
As difficult as it is for many of us to believe (myself included!), gummy vitamins and supplements can be incredibly effective due to their enhanced bioavailability. When searching for gummy vitamins, opt for those that have good levels of active ingredients and are as low in sugar as possible. Price is a prime indicator, so don’t expect to pay less for a gummy than you would for a bottle of equivalent pills by a reputable manufacturer. Treat gummy vitamins and supplements as part of your health regimen, and you’ll be on your way to a more joyful daily intake of helpful nutrients.
Read next: These 5 Supplements Can Help Reduce Inflammation, Says Science
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