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Do Gummy Vitamins Actually Work? 3 Nutritionists Hash It Out

04/10/2015 12:51 pm ET | Updated Jun 10, 2015

by Christa Joanna Lee, Teen Vogue

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Photo: Getty Images

Especially during the changing seasons, it's an all too familiar scenario: You wake up with the sniffles, you feel foggy, and then your throat starts to hurt. So in an effort to boost your body's immune system, you pop a couple of I-refuse-to-get-sick gummy vitamins. After all, they taste way better than swallowing your traditional chalky tablet. Plus they're full of vitamin C, vitamin D, and a host of important minerals -- so that means they must be doing something good for your body, right?

New York City-based nutritionist Lisa Drayer, MA RD and author of The Beauty Diet, is not so convinced. "The most concerning factor about gummy vitamins is that with any candy-like supplement, there is a risk of overconsumption, which can potentially be toxic," she says. "If you have a balanced diet, I generally don't recommend multivitamins as a get-better-quick tactic--or even as part of your daily routine." Since gummy supplements aren't regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, they may contain smaller amounts of vitamins compared to chewables or tablets, says Drayer. "This basically means that a company can claim that the product carries x, y, z vitamin and mineral but there is nobody testing the product before it goes on the shelf," says Miami-based nutritionist Christy Maskeroni, MS RD.

However, if you're a picky eater or have dietary restrictions and you're not getting enough nutrients through your diet, "natural and organic gummy vitamins are great supplements to get in a variety of vitamins and minerals in an easily-digestible and delicious way," says NYC-based nutritionist Tara Ostrowe, MS RD. "They're also good alternatives for clients who feel that regular multivitamin tablets make them nauseous or are too large to swallow."

The flavorful taste of a gummy might be the primary incentive for those with a vicious sweet tooth to take their vitamins every day in comparison to other less-appetizing tablets. However, like any delicious meal that claims to be healthy for you -- you raise an eyebrow. And according to Maskeroni, you've got the right to be skeptical. "The desire for companies to make them taste more like candy, makes it harder to pack [an effective amount of] vitamins and minerals into the gummies," says Maskeroni. Meaning the ability to keep the sugar:nutrient ratio balanced is challenging and sugar and other unhealthy ingredients often get the upper hand. "Be mindful of the list of ingredients, and avoid versions with harmful food coloring like Red 40 or Yellow 6," says Ostrowe.

No matter their stance, one thing all three nutritionists agree on is that if you decide to take a gummy vitamin, don't treat them like your regular pack of Sour Patch Kids. "They're not meant to be eaten like candy," advises Ostrowe, who says the typical serving size is two gummies. "Gummy vitamins do have a higher sugar content than regular tablets, with about three grams of sugar for two gummies. But, if you consume the recommended dosage, the sugar intake shouldn't have a significant negative impact on your health," she says. On your teeth, however -- that's a different story.

"A lot of times, these gummies contain glucose syrup, sucrose, and gelatin -- not great," says New York-based dentist Jonathan B. Levine, DMD. Dr. Levine informs us that these ingredients stick to your teeth, which is a breeding ground for the demineralization of those pearly whites. "That's three grams of refined sugar or carbs, the enemy not just of your teeth but your body too. If you must take them, make sure you're brushing and flossing properly immediately after." Not so fast, smarty pants. If you think you're beating the system by opting for sugar-free gummy vitamins, we give you an A for effort but you're not quite safe either. "Even if the gummies don't have sugar, what we call 'biofilm' is always naturally forming on your teeth, so if they don't get cleaned properly, plaque is bound to develop." And no one wants that.

Bottom line: Gummy vitamins in moderation won't hurt too bad, but it won't make you immune to sickness and doesn't give you an excuse to skimp out on your daily fruits and veggies. Eat a balanced diet, stay active and wash your hands frequently for your best, healthiest self. We'll raise a green juice to that.