Capsule vitamins vs gummy vitamins - which is better? Gummy vitamins look and taste like candy so you’d think they would be very popular. And they are. You pop what looks and tastes like a candy into your mouth and your body benefits from all the vitamins packed into that little gummy. But don’t be fooled, this is not strictly speaking true. The reason they taste like candy is because they are full of either sugar or artificial sweeteners. The World Health Organization recommends that by reducing our daily intake of sugars to an amount that is equal or less than 5% of our total caloric intake, many health benefits could be gained by both adults and children. This equates to about 6 teaspoons (25 grams) of sugar per day. Currently, the average American consumes around 22 teaspoons (~ 92 grams) of sugar per day, already well above the WHO recommendation. Now a typical gummy vitamin contains about 3-5 grams of sugar, which makes up as much as 20% of the WHO recommendation for a healthy daily sugar allotment. Now think about that for a second. Simply by opting for that little gummy bear vitamin over a regular pill form vitamin, you’ve used up 20% of your daily sugar allotment! And chances are you (as the average American does) will exceed your recommended daily allotment even without that gummy, so you are just making matters worse. And we have already discussed all of the nasty effects that sugar can have on your skin, hair, nails and overall general health in a previous blog.
Some may argue that the nutritional benefits supplied by the vitamin outweigh the detrimental effects of the sugar. However, those benefits may not be as high as you might be led to believe. In order to make a gummy vitamin, many different ingredients are required to achieve the desired “gumminess” (eg. sugar, food colors, gelatin, corn starch). But this results in limits being put on the amount and number of vitamins and minerals that can be added to the vitamin. The end result is you often have to take more than one gummy vitamin to receive the same nutritional benefits offered by a pill form supplement. And by doing so you yet again increase your sugar intake. Vitamins in gummies are also less stable than in pill form resulting in a shorter shelf life and loss of potency. In attempts to circumvent this problem, manufacturers tend to overload them to prolong shelf life. This implies that you can never be truly confident in the dosage you are receiving despite what the label may indicate – if you purchased a freshly manufactured batch it could be more, or it could be less if the bottle has been on the store shelf for a while. And regulation is less strict since the FDA sees vitamin supplements as foods rather than as drugs.
Manufacturers also know that the texture and taste of their gummy vitamin is a key selling point for the general public. They thus strive to make it as pleasing as possible, but some essential vitamins and minerals (for example iron, zinc, B-vitamins and herbs) have unpleasant tastes that are difficult to mask in the gummy. In fact, even the manufacturer themselves admit that not all active ingredients are suitable for gummy vitamins.
But what about those “sugar-free” gummy bear vitamins? Are they not free from many of these problems? Let’s have a closer look. They use sugar alcohols such as Sorbitol, Xylitol, Erythritol and Maltitol to replace the sugar – you may recognize some of these names from the list of ingredients on many sugar free products. But what exactly are sugar alcohols? Sugar alcohols are carbohydrates that can be anywhere from 35–97% as sweet as sugar but are lower in calories and do not have the same negative effects on your health such as increasing blood sugar levels. However, if consumed in excess, some negative side effects may result. The most common of these are diarrhoea and bloating. Artificial flavourings that are also commonly found in gummy vitamins can also have a detrimental effect on intestinal health.
And how many times did your mom tell you that all that sugar would “rot your teeth”? Well, she was right. Sugars remain the main dietary factor that leads to the development of dental cavities and tooth decay. The reason for this is related to the bacteria in your mouth. These bacteria can metabolize sugars producing an acid that attacks the hard tissues of the teeth (enamel and dentine) and slowly breaks them down. This phenomenon also factored in to the WHO’s recommendation on the maximum daily sugar intake. This same detrimental effect on tooth enamel can also be provided by other ingredients often found in gummy vitamins such as citric acid. And of course, since they are gummies, there is a tendency for bits of them to stick to your teeth, exacerbating this problem and providing a potential source of embarrassment when you smile.
Take Away Message
Capsule vitamins versus gummy vitamins - which is better? Gummy vitamins may appear like a convenient and tasty way to supplement your diet with the essential nutrients your body needs, but convenience and taste do not equate to good health. Gummy vitamins contain an abundance of sugar that is detrimental to the average American’s general and dental health. The dose of the active ingredients in each gummy will be variable and dependent upon factors such as shelf life, thus you can never be positive of the actual dose you are ingesting and furthermore, more than one gummy vitamin may be required to match all the ingredients and their dosages contained within a single pill form supplement. Traditional pill form vitamins can contain many more active ingredients including those which have unpleasant tastes and are difficult to hide and therefore absent in gummy versions. While some gummy vitamins offer a sugar free alternative, these issues relating to dosage, taste masking and number of active ingredients persist. So, to answer the question: Capsule vitamins versus gummy vitamins - which is better? Capsule vitamins win hands down.