New Delhi: Swallowing distasteful multivitamin capsules and pills are no more the norm it is now being replaced by gummies, which come in attractive packaging, coated with artificial colours in varied shapes and flavours, easily chewable, and are mostly made with gelatin, corn starch, water, and sugar. The Indian gummies market in 2022 was worth Rs 75.8 crore and is growing exponentially. The Indian gummies market is expected to reach Rs 778 crore by 2023-2031. While few experts vouch for it and inform that they are helpful supplements. Nutritional experts urge long-term research evidence before such supplements are made commercially available for consumption. As per Asia Research Partners LLP, the Indian gummy supplement industry will be worth approximately Rs 720 crore in 2035. According to the report, the market size and depth are increasing, forecasting a sale of over 15 million bottles of gummies by 2035. Meanwhile, experts have reservations and inform that though gummy vitamins can effectively provide essential nutrients, similar to ordinary supplements. However, experts are apprehensive about the efficacy of gummy vitamins as it depends on various factors, such as the specific formulation, ingredients, and individual needs.
Are vitamin gummies effective?
Gummy vitamins were initially focused on kids as it tastes better, in the current scenario gummy vitamins are a new rage amongst all age groups. So, the question remains are they healthy and effective?
Speaking to ETHealthworld, Sanjeev Jain, Joint MD, Akums Drugs & Pharmaceuticals, said, “Gummy vitamins offer several advantages over traditional supplements, including superior palatability and effective absorption. They help reduce non-compliance due to patients’ dislike for the size, taste, smell, and structure of pills. Pill fatigue is another factor driving consumers toward gummies, particularly for those who have difficulty swallowing capsules or tablets. Additionally, gummies offer convenience and flexibility as they can be taken anywhere and anytime. They can be customised for specific age groups and offer an enjoyable way to combat health issues. Gummies provide a variety of essential vitamins and minerals, which can promote healthy bodily functions and combat vitamin deficiencies. However, it is important to carefully examine the ingredients and consult a healthcare provider before selecting a brand.”
Jain further added, “Our body requires 13 essential vitamins (including all the B vitamins) and at least 15 minerals to perform a variety of functions ranging from growth and development to immunity and reproduction. Our bodies require essential vitamins and minerals to maintain healthy bodily functions. Gummy vitamins can provide a variety of these essential nutrients that can promote healthy bones, teeth, vision, immune systems, and muscles, and provide antioxidants and other health benefits. However, the quality of each product varies, and it is important to carefully examine the ingredients and consult a healthcare provider before selecting a product based on the needs of every individual’s body.”
If you’re curious about the effectiveness of gummy vitamins, rest assured that they do fulfil their intended purpose, stated Nikkhil K Masurkar, CEO, ENTOD Pharmaceuticals, informing that gummy vitamins, similar to traditional vitamins, including chewable tablets, are capable of providing various essential vitamins and minerals, such as our iron gummies for adults.
“Research indicates that both gummy vitamins and traditional vitamins (such as tablets or soft gels) are equally absorbed into the bloodstream, known as their bioavailability when they contain the same amount of a specific vitamin or mineral. However, it is important to consider that while gummy vitamins effectively deliver essential nutrients, they do have certain drawbacks. The delightful sweetness of gummy vitamins is attributed to the presence of a significant amount of sugar. The sugar and citric acid present in gummies potentially leads to cavities, similar to other sugary treats. It is important to be mindful of their potential impact on dental health,” Maurkar added.
Expressing that gummy vitamins can effectively provide essential nutrients, similar to ordinary supplements, Vinay K Mayer, Director, Market Research and Consulting, Asia Research Partners LLP, said, “It’s important to note that the efficacy of gummy vitamins depends on various factors, such as the specific formulation, ingredients, and individual needs. While gummies can offer convenience and a pleasant experience, choosing reputable brands that ensure accurate dosing and high-quality ingredients is essential. Additionally, unique absorption and response to nutrients can vary. It is advisable to consult healthcare professionals or registered dietitians for guidance on the correct supplement form and dosage that suits your nutritional requirements. Consumers can choose from multiple categories of gummies, such as those targeted for hair, beauty, skin, nails, energy, and immunity.”
Traditional vitamins that come in pills or capsules are now showcased as tasteless, sweetened gummy vitamins typically contain two-eight grams of sugar per serving, contributing to an individual’s daily sugar intake.
According to a 2017 analysis conducted by ConsumerLab.com, four out of five gummy supplements examined contained either more or less of the listed ingredients. But gummy supplements were also found to be the most prone to failure testing. Many companies struggle to maintain precise control over the ingredient quantities in each gummy. As a solution, some gummy manufacturers apply a vitamin and nutrient coating on the outer surface of the finished candy. Additionally, gummies can experience stability issues, resulting in a loss of potency over time. Consequently, certain manufacturers may include significantly higher amounts of certain vitamins than what is stated on the label to ensure that the product maintains at least 100 per cent of the labelled amounts throughout its shelf life. While this may initially seem beneficial, as it provides more nutrients than expected, excessive intake of certain nutrients has been associated with health problems, including an increased risk of certain types of cancer, as reported in some studies.
Adverse effects of unmindful gummies consumption
The mindless use of gummies has become common, experts warn that as much as they are user-friendly, it’s important to balance the convenience and enjoyment of consuming them with the potential drawbacks of artificial ingredients, added sugars, and flavours.
Commenting on whether excessive intake of gummies leads to cancer, Masurkar, said, “Yes, some reports and studies have suggested a potential link between excessive nutrient intake and certain health problems, including an increased risk for certain types of cancer. While essential nutrients are important for overall health, consuming excessive amounts of certain vitamins or minerals beyond recommended levels can have adverse effects. For example, a high intake of certain antioxidants, such as beta-carotene and vitamin E, has been associated with increased cancer risk in some studies. Excessive intake of folic acid (a form of folate) has also been linked to an increased risk of certain cancers.”
Mayer agreed that excessive intake of certain nutrients can have adverse health effects and potential complications, however, the claim of excessive intake of gummies leads to cancer, he informed is more complex and requires a nuanced understanding.
“While adequate intake of essential nutrients is crucial for overall health, consuming excessive amounts can be harmful. Fat-soluble vitamins like vitamins A, D, E, and K and certain minerals can accumulate in the body and reach toxic levels if consumed excessively. This can lead to adverse effects, including organ damage, nutrient imbalances, and impaired bodily functions. Regarding the connection between excessive nutrient intake and cancer, it is essential to note that the relationship is multifactorial and not solely attributed to nutrient intake alone,” he expressed.
Discussing public health nutrition, Dr Shweta Khandelwal, Senior Public Health Nutrition Expert, Centre for Chronic Disease Control (CCDC), Delhi, said, “Whether you take gummies or capsules, these have vitamin extracts, not naturally occurring like in the case of fruits. I also understand the need for a quick fix that is easy to consume and saves people the hassle to buy fruits and vegetables and deal with their perishability issues, acceptance or taste issues, pricing etc but as a public health nutrition advocate, I will still endorse real food and not any other quick fixes as a strategy to cure micronutrient deficiency. Anaemia case is right in front of our eyes for the last several decades. We have been giving supplements but anaemia has only worsened. So unless there are behaviour change strategies coupled with awareness programmes, these will not be of much use.”
Dr Khandelwal added, “COVID gave an opportunity to the industry to sell any and everything where they claim any immunity boosting property. And people responded too. So yes people want better health and longer lives but shortcuts won’t help. See the latest guidelines from World Health Organisation (WHO) about non-nutritive artificial sweeteners. We have been advocating against those (in the context of obesity) for a long time and finally WHO also came out with their warning against the use of such artificial sweeteners for weight loss. Long-term research evidence is a must before we put out things in the market for people to consume.”
While many go by marketing gimmicks and assume supplements are a safe and convenient way to get the required nutrients, experts inform there is more to it.
Clinical efficacy of gummies needs a reality check
Gummies can potentially lose clinical efficacy if not stored or handled correctly. To ensure the effectiveness of gummies over time, consumers need to store them correctly, follow expiration dates, and choose reputable brands that prioritise stability and quality control in their formulations. Certain steps can be taken to maintain the quality and effectiveness of gummies over time, informed Mayer.
Adding to it, Ruchika Jain, Chief Clinical Nutritionist, Fortis Hospital, said, “Gaining clinical efficacy for products like gummies is still in process. Gummies are gaining popularity but their clinical efficacy is still in question.”
“The efficacy and shelf life of gummies can vary depending on their specific recipe and stability studies conducted. It all depends on the stability studies done. If exhaustive stability studies have been done, degradation issues would not be a challenge,” added Jain.
Gummies: neither myth nor miracle
As per experts, immunity was a priority during the COVID-19 pandemic. These chewy vitamin supplements, with the addition of artificial colours, added sugar, flavours, and other formulations in some products, such as multivitamins and biotin supplements, raise concerns about their overall healthiness.
“Artificial colours are used to enhance the appearance of gummies but provide no nutritional benefit. While they are generally considered safe for consumption, some individuals may have sensitivities or allergies to specific colour additives. Added sugars contribute to the sweet taste of gummies but can pose health risks when consumed in excess. It’s important to note that gummies can contain a significant amount of sugar, which can contribute to a person’s daily sugar intake. Flavours are added to make gummies more palatable, but they are typically artificial and provide no nutritional value. Some individuals may have sensitivities or preferences regarding specific flavours. When considering the overall healthiness of gummies, it’s important to balance convenience with the potential drawbacks of artificial ingredients, added sugars, and flavours. Choosing gummies that have minimal artificial additives, lower sugar content, and align with individual dietary needs can help make them a healthier choice. It’s always advisable to consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian for personalised advice on choosing the most suitable supplement options,” said Masurkar.
Jain emphasised that they only use approved colours and flavours in their gummies, ensuring they are both safe and effective.
“The pandemic has accelerated the shift towards healthy alternatives, and consumers have become more aware of the importance of leading a balanced lifestyle. However, gummies were developed over a decade ago to encourage children to take vitamins, and they have expanded to include a variety of flavours and functional ingredients for adults. In recent years, gummy products have expanded beyond the traditional fruit-flavoured candy to include a variety of new flavours and functional ingredients, such as probiotics, omega-3s, antioxidants, melatonin, and collagen, which are believed to provide health benefits beyond basic nutrition. There have also been standout formulations for conditions such as heart disease and cancer. As India targets 3.5 per cent of the global nutraceutical market share by the end of 2023, it is expected that gummies will continue to be a vital part of this growth, given the increasing disposable income and health consciousness among the population,” he expressed.
Masukrar said, “While gummy vitamins can provide essential nutrients and vitamins, it’s important to note that they are not a substitute for obtaining nutrients from natural food sources. Gummy vitamins are designed to supplement a balanced diet when it may be challenging to meet nutrient needs through food alone. They can be especially useful in situations where specific nutrient deficiencies exist or for individuals with dietary restrictions or limited access to a variety of nutritious foods.”
Khandelwal reiterated, “When it comes to public health nutrition, it is important to know that nothing works better than a diverse colourful healthy meal with real foods esp lots of greens, fruits and vegetables, good quality proteins and fats and reduced refined sugars, salt or trans fats. In some cases, people may have micronutrient deficiencies that need them to consume supplements but bear in mind that these are short-term fixers and their reliability is not 100 per cent since absorption and bioavailability of these varies hugely. Some long-term follow-up studies also indicate that chronic use of supplements does more harm than good and/or offers no additional benefits.”
Experts concluded that vitamin supplements are consumed to stay healthy, instead of going by marketing gimmicks and mindless consumption one should recognise the nutritional needs and how it suits each individual. Multiple studies suggest supplements are neither a miracle nor a myth, but only the right measures of intake can help get the maximum benefits.