At what point should you just buy a bag of gummy bears already?
At some point in recent history, gummy vitamins became an acceptable way for adults to get their daily dose of necessary nutritional supplements. As someone whose mother refused to buy chewable Flintstones vitamins because they were too sugary and candy-like, the new-ish adult tolerance of childlike vitamin consumption has been a delightful, if mildly suspicious, development for me. Because I am now a grown woman, I can get my vitamins (or not) however I’d like, and so long as it’s an option available, I’ll take them in the form of candy, please and thank you.
My preferred brand is Vitafusion Women’s Gummy Vitamins, which comes in what they generously refer to as “natural berry flavors.” The directions say to eat two per day, which means there are 75 servings to the bottle. That is, if you only eat two. I have, on occasion, eaten a third and maybe even a fourth—they taste good! I can’t help it! And surely it isn’t bad for me to consume, say, 600 percent of my daily vitamin B-12 instead of the 300 percent provided by the daily recommended dose? B-12 is the one that’s allegedly supposed to help you combat stress, and I could use all the stress relief I can get. What happens if you eat too many gummy vitamins?
I decided to talk to an actual nutritionist to find out if eating more than the recommended daily dose of delicious gummy vitamins is hurting me, or if (fingers crossed!) it might be bringing me closer to immortality. Abby Langer, RD, is the owner of Abby Langer Nutrition in Toronto, and when I confessed my occasional over-indulgence gummy vitamins to her over email, it became clear that she was slightly concerned for my health. When I asked her what would happen if I ate five gummy vitamins in one sitting rather than the recommended two, she told me I would “probably get diarrhea” and that I should “just buy some gummy bears instead.”
And that’s if you’re eating only five. I asked Abby what would happen if—hypothetically, of course—I ate, say, 20 gummy vitamins in one sitting. She replied, in all caps, “DO NOT EAT 20 VITAMINS!!! Gross!” Because gummy vitamins are essentially “candy with some vitamins thrown in,” wrote Abby, it’s easier to consume too many vitamins in a way that just doesn’t happen with the pill variety (many of which can be rather chalky and comically large). Eating too much sugar isn’t good for you anyway, so eating too much sugar plus too many vitamins is bad for you in two ways at least.
The good news is, gummy vitamins are a mostly fine way to supplement your diet, if you, like me, aren’t ready to let go just yet. They do work, so long as you’re taking them with a meal (preferably one with at least two teaspoons of fat) to allow the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K) to be absorbed. Abby warns, though, that gummy vitamins tend not to be as powerful as their pill counterparts. “They don’t usually contain calcium and iron, for example, among other micronutrients,” she writes. “I don’t think every vitamin and mineral translates well into gummy form so they leave quite a few out.”
Ideally, we’d all get all the vitamins we need from our diets, but most people don’t eat quite that well, so it’s definitely worth taking a supplement in some form, writes Abby. “Vitamins help our bodies do a lot of things, including maintaining integrity of skin and membranes and synthesizing important components of our system such as collagen; helping convert energy in our cells; etc. We need them! If your diet isn’t great, you could probably benefit from a vitamin.” Yes, pill-form vitamins will probably do a more thorough job, but if your diet is lacking in vitamins, gummy supplements may be better than no supplements at all.
So if you, too, were a kid who didn’t get to chow down on as many of those Flintstones vitamins as you would have liked, by all means, buy yourself some gummies. But please, please follow the daily recommended dose—no matter how good they taste. Says Abby, “More isn't always better, especially with supplements.”