The vitamin industry is big business—more than half of all adults in the U.S. take supplements daily, and more than $12 billion is spent in this country on these miracle pills each year.* Even with all their popularity, the question has come up about whether we even need supplements at all, especially the gummy form. Here’s a breakdown on the value of vitamins, which ones come from our diets, when we need to get them from other sources, and what we should do about those gummies.

Do we even need vitamins?

Vitamins and minerals are essential to our health and well-being; they do everything from strengthening bones and teeth and helping form red blood cells, to maintaining our central nervous system, producing hormones, and converting carbohydrate into energy. We can get just about every nutrient we need from food as long as we eat a healthy diet.

Which vitamins should we get from sources besides food?

We really don’t need to rely on sources other than food to get our recommended daily intake of vitamins and minerals. A balanced diet includes fresh fruits and vegetables, fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and low-fat dairy products.

When is taking supplements a good idea?

Even though a healthy diet can provide the nutrients we need, supplements can be very helpful, especially under these circumstances:

  • Picky eaters—especially children—who refuse to eat a balanced diet may need to supplement their vitamin intake
  • Women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant need to maintain sufficient levels of folic acid and iron
  • People who have specific vitamin deficiencies should take supplements (under a doctor’s supervision)
  • Anyone with a common cold might benefit from extra dose of zinc, which can shorten the virus’s length and severity

Are gummies a worthwhile option?

Gummy vitamins are a bit of a double-edged sword. Because they’re tasty and easy to chew, they’re great for children and anyone who has trouble swallowing a pill. Let’s admit it, some supplements are huge! But the tastiness can come at a cost. Gummies are made with gelatin, corn starch, sugar, water, and food coloring. With all those extra ingredients, it’s hard to include sufficient levels and quantities of vitamins and to maintain their potency.

What happens then? Dosages usually include two or more gummies per day. When each gummy has 3 grams of sugar and 15 calories, the sugar and calorie counts can have the same amount of sugar as some candy. Some makers lower the sugar level by using sugar alcohols instead, which can wreck some people’s digestive systems.

What’s worse, their appealing taste and mouth feel can trick some users, especially little ones, into eating gummies like they’re candy. That’s where the danger of getting too much of a vitamin comes into play. Excessive amounts of vitamins A, B, C, and E could actually be harmful.

Another challenge with gummies is their lack of regulation. One study found that 80% of the gummies tested did not have accurate labeling; most contained lower levels than were listed.** So anyone who has to take gummies should read the packaging carefully and buy products that have been certified by a third-party organization such as U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), NSF International, ConsumerLab.com, or Banned Substances Control Group (BSCG).

Here’s a quick guide to help you choose foods that can provide vitamins and nutrients:

WHEN YOU NEED… HELPFUL FOODS
Daily multivitamin A healthy, balanced diet
Vitamin A Fresh berries
Vitamin C Citrus fruit
Vitamin D Low- to no-fat dairy products (and get sufficient sunlight)
Vitamin E Plenty of spinach and other dark, leafy greens
Probiotics Fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, and kombucha

If taking supplements causes your tummy to flip and flop, or if you still get sick no matter how healthy and balanced your diet is, Teladoc is always here to help. Our network of doctors is available 24/7 to help diagnose and treat a wide variety of non-emergency conditions, no matter where you are in the U.S. Download the app and we’ll be close by any time you need us.

References

*https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/is-there-really-any-benefit-to-multivitamins
**https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/multivitamin_review_comparisons/multivitamins/

This portion of the Teladoc website occasionally offers health, fitness, and nutritional information and is provided for educational purposes only. You cannot rely on any information provided here as a substitute for or replacement of professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Teladoc cannot assure that the information contained on this site always includes the most recent findings or developments with respect to the particular subject matter covered.

If you ever have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional. Do not disregard, avoid, or delay obtaining medical or health-related advice from your healthcare professional because of something you may have read on this site. The use of any information provided on this site is solely at your own risk.

If you are in the United States and think you are having a medical or health emergency, call your healthcare professional, or 911, immediately.

The COVID-19 pandemic is rapidly evolving. While we are continuously reviewing and updating our content, some of the information in this article may not reflect the most up-to-date scientific information. Please visit the online resources provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and your local public health department to stay informed on the latest news, or reach out to Teladoc to speak with one of our board-certified physicians.