Invasion of the Gummies
Invasion of the Gummies
This time, it’s personal.
As you might have noticed, all supplements appear to be turning into gummies, reminding me of that old horror flick, Invasion of the Body Snatchers. This is the movie (one black and white version and three modern remakes) where your friends and family are replaced with something that looks just like them but is lacking a soul.
This is how I feel about regular supplements being replaced by gummy versions, something I particularly detest, and which I am going to use this venue to rail against. I have three primary reasons for hating this movement towards gummies, and hopefully, when I am finished with this diatribe I will have turned many of you against them as well.
My first argument is that we already have a culture that keeps us in a childish, or at best adolescent, state: witness the polarization of opinions amongst people and their inability to compromise, reconcile or even hear alternative opinions. We are forgetting how to be adults, and one of the worst contributors to this tendency is social media and the internet, which thrives on (and profits from) conflict and keeping us in an angry state.
Gummies were originally marketed towards children, so there is some logic there: get fussy kids to take their vitamins. Fair enough, and so gummies aimed at children are excused from this first argument against their very existence. But, even if you yourself would never take a gummy, and you give them only to children, do not stop reading for there are still two arguments that apply to children as well as adults.
My opening attack begins with the concept of infantilization. Infantilization occurs “when an adult is treated like a child”, and there is no better example of this than taking vitamins and minerals, and putting them into a user-friendly format for fussy adults who won’t take their vitamins. (Believe me, it won’t be long before you find broccoli gummies on the shelf.)
And it appears to be working, as these gummy lures are bringing new people into the health food stores and are selling so well that many of the established vitamin companies are jumping on that bandwagon.
So, you can’t imagine swallowing some pills to support your health and longevity, but the minute I tell you that the pill will be a delicious chewy candy, you’re all in You have been infantilized, but odds are you weren’t far away from that already, or it wouldn’t have been such an easy sell.
But let’s give the benefit of the doubt to some gummy consumers, and imagine that there are some among that group that can’t swallow pills without great difficulty, thus gummies appear like the answer to their prayers. My response is that we already have regular chewable vitamins (the chalky kind), liquid versions of most supplements, and powders that can be mixed into beverages or food. So that’s no excuse for a grown-up.
And, let’s not forget the danger inherent in allowing children to think of vitamins as candy, and the possibility of kids getting into their parent’s vitamin gummies and chowing down. (Already an issue with cannabis gummies.) Sure most vitamins are pretty safe, but iron can be deadly for children, and too much vitamin A or D, or zinc, could also cause problems in extreme excess, as could a few other supplements.
But, in fact, this is actually much less of a danger than I am making it out to be because, and this brings us to argument number two, gummies are mostly useless.
A Waste of Time and Money
The price of these gummy supplements is ridiculously high considering they contain more filler than medicinal ingredients. But worse, the amount of space required by the “gum” part of gummies leaves almost no room for any appreciable nutrients. With a few exceptions.
As mentioned in my Invasion of the Body Snatchers analogy, the replacements for our loved ones are not human any more, and gummies are replacing valid, valuable supplements with something that gives the illusion of being a supplement but is nothing more than a pale imitation.
If we look at the amount of B-vitamins found in an adult or kid’s gummy multivitamin we are looking at micrograms rather than milligrams, as found in regular multivitamins (even the chalky chewables). For those poor at math, a microgram is one thousandth the amount of a milligram. Trace minerals are ingested in microgram amounts, so gummies can have an adequate amount of those, but of the macro minerals they also come up shy.
In a gummy magnesium product from one of the most popular gummy companies the scam is as follows.
Each gummy provides 177 mg of magnesium bisglycinate. Sounds good right? The best form of magnesium and not a poor amount either. However, in Canada, if the product is listed without brackets the amount of magnesium is not an elemental figure (that is, the amount actually absorbed). Since the product is labeled “Magnesium bisglycinate” and not “Magnesium (bisglycinate)”, then the 177 mg refers to the crude amount of magnesium in the product. Not the elemental amount as you will find with most magnesium supplements.
Now, bisglycinate may be the most absorbable form of magnesium but it also has the lowest amount of elemental magnesium at about only 8%. Thus 177 mg of magnesium bisglycinate only provides about 14 mg of usable magnesium (daily requirement for an adult is about 400 mg).
Now let’s look at some other gummy examples.
Immune gummies from one popular company contain 50 mg of elderberry, 90 mg vitamin C and 7.5 mg of zinc. A clinical dose of elderberry is up to 1200 mg of a concentrated extract, but you only need two of these gummies to support your immune system, according to the manufacturer. And that is true from a labeling perspective, however what is allowed to be defined as immune-supportive is the vitamin C and zinc; the elderberry doesn’t figure into the math at all from an immune perspective.
The same holds true with the Cold and Flu Relief gummies for kids. They contain 50 mg of elderberry along with 20 mg of South African Geranium. Studies are based on a dose of 30 mg of a standardized extract of this herb, not just 20 mg of straight herb, which is an insignificant amount. So, here too, the claims are based on the vitamin C and zinc content both of which can be obtained in a better form than in a gummy.
One product providing “Super Immunity” for kids, offers 30 mg of an elderberry extract along with 16 mg of non-standardized echinacea herb: both insignificant amounts, but contains a reasonable amount of vitamin C (150 mg), vitamin D (1,000 IU) and zinc (5 mg), which allows for the label claim.
Gummies with Appreciable Content
Okay, just to be fair, there are a few nutrients that would fit into a gummy in reasonable amounts.
Melatonin is available in an effective dose, since one only needs a few milligrams. However, for it to be effective it should be dissolved under the tongue (sublingual) just prior to bedtime. Chewing and swallowing will not give the same level of effectiveness.
The same holds true with zinc. One can put an appreciable amount in one gummy, but when one uses a zinc lozenge, to ward off a cold or throat infection, the zinc in lozenge form is to be slowly sucked. This bathes the throat in bacterial-killing zinc for a reasonable length of time. Chewing and swallowing a gummy post-haste will not accomplish the same thing.
Vitamin B-12 is taken in very small amounts (1 – 5 mg), so this will also fit into a gummy easily, but again, B-12 needs to be taken sublingually, being actually absorbed through the mucus membranes under the tongue. So chewing and swallowing a gummy with B-12 is likely to be much less efficient than taking a proper sublingual product. (Such as Quick B-12)
Vitamin D can also be found in an appreciable amount in a gummy, at least for kids, at 1000 IU per serving (an adult would need to take about five of them). But, vitamin D requires that we are eating fat in order to be absorbed well, so these gummies would need to follow a meal, since unlike a liquid vitamin D which can be taken without food, under the tongue, gummies are chewed and swallowed and so would not be absorbed sublingually. (Quick D)
Your Teeth and Gummies
Now we come to the most insidious factor when using gummies. Maybe you have a full set of false teeth; if so, feel free to ignore this argument. But, if you still have teeth, and you are keen on keeping them, then pay close attention here. And, for God’s sake, think of the children.
Looking at the various gummy products, I see them sweetened with everything from glucose and sugar (major brand names) through organic cane juice (basically unrefined dehydrated sugar cane juice), to tapioca syrup.
Tapioca syrup is considered better than most sugars because it has a low glycemic index (doesn’t cause a big spike in blood sugar levels), however it is still composed of sucrose and glucose.
One brand I found actually uses only stevia and monk fruit, which do not contribute to cavities, however all these other sweeteners do contribute to tooth decay. And, this one product line that doesn’t use sweeteners damaging to the teeth, still includes citric acid among its ingredients (so too do all the other products). Readers may remember my blog “Vitamin C: Worse Than Sugar?” in which I discussed how both ascorbic acid and citric acid are worse on the teeth than sugar. As we have seen with the Immune gummy product, vitamin C is often added to these formulas, and certainly there is some in the multivitamin gummies. And I found a number of vitamin C gummy products that only use ascorbic acid (instead of pH neutral vitamin C like calcium ascorbate).
(One option for a liquid vitamin C that won’t lead to tooth decay is Liposomal Vitamin C, which absorbs many times better than regular vitamin C, and which is non-acidic in nature.}
So here we are, not just eating a sugary candy/vitamin containing citric acid, and often ascorbic acid, but, and here’s the really egregious thing, we are wedging all that decay- causing material into every nook, cranny, and crevice found in the teeth. Jammed in there, and held in place by the “gum”, these acidifying compounds will just quietly work away at contributing to the wealth of your dentist.
And do you know what really blows my mind, the thing that gets me worked up and ranting against gummies? Apple cider vinegar gummies. Sure, some of these products come without sugar per se, but the rest of it is pure acid.
So, at the very least, ensure you brush well after consuming gummies. Be sure that the melatonin gummy is consumed before you brush your teeth, as night would be the worst time to have your teeth wrapped in sugar and citric acid, working insidiously while you sleep. And, have you ever tried to get a kid to actually brush effectively? Easier said than done.
If you must eat these nefarious products at least take a few precautions. Read the label, and see how much of the nutrients offered you are actually getting, and pay attention to the fact that often the amounts listed are per serving, and the serving is usually more than one pill/gummy.
Also, gummies, like all vitamins and minerals, should be taken at a meal, in part because most isolated nutrients require co-factors that are found in food. But also for a few specific reasons including that zinc on an empty stomach can cause nausea, and fat-soluble nutrients require fat in the meal to be fully absorbed (unless you are taking it in a liquid oil form).
And, for those unafraid of swallowing pills we have the most complete multivitamin and mineral mix available, NutriPods, (complete because it is a packet of pills, not just one or two). With NutriPods, and most supplements, I recommend that people swallow these pills with food, not liquid. Swallowing with food is much easier for those with a difficult time swallowing pills, and has the added advantage of not diluting the stomach acid with liquid while eating. I swallow all my supplements this way (except amino acids and some herbs which do not require food for proper absorption). Simply slip a pill into a mouthful of fully masticated food and swallow. Repeat as necessary.