They are colorful, cute shaped and have a pleasantly sweet taste. In addition to these qualities, candies and vitamin gums also promise what everyone wants: delivering nutrients to the body quickly and tasty. But do they really work?
According to the pharmacist Luitgard de Lima, who is also a pediatric nutritionist and researcher at Unifesp (Federal University of São Paulo), they are only useful if certain clinical conditions make it difficult to take conventional capsule formats. From a nutritional point of view, there is no benefit in consuming this type of product.
Vitamins are compounds that need stability in order to be delivered to people in the form of dietary supplements. The problem is that in the form of lozenges or chewing gum, it is more difficult to achieve such stability.
According to nutritionist Regina Heaven da Silva Vieira, Associate Professor of Nutrition at I TRUST (Federal University of Amazonas), some analyzes done with these products have shown that some of the vitamins in this type of carrier may degrade faster than the expiration date indicated on the label.
“Therefore, it is possible that manufacturers place large doses so that the final product contains the specified amount of nutrients before the expiration date,” he explains.
Another important point is that this instability also leads to the need for a large amount of added stabilizers and preservatives to ensure the delivery of these nutrients. However, when consumed in excess, these substances increase the risk of health problems such as obesity and diabetes.
There is still a risk of developing hypersensitivity and food allergies. Some studies even link supplement intake to various diseases such as inflammation in the gut and even cancer.
How did these vitamin bullets come about?
The United States, one of the largest consumers of supplements in the world, pioneered the use of a lozenge and chewing gum format for this type of drug.
So-called “gummies” are used not only in multivitamins, but also in prenatal supplements for teens and children, and even in melatonin, known as the sleep hormone.
According to nutritionist Angelica Grecco, nutrition coordinator at Santa Helena Hospital and nutritionist at the EndoVitta Institute, the idea was precisely to make it easier for patients who actually needed this supplement but had difficulty swallowing traditional capsules – for example, the elderly people. y with difficulty swallowing and young children or even patients with severe food intolerance.
“These are cases where even chewable tablets, which can also be used, could not be tolerated,” the specialist explains.
The higher tolerance of lozenges or vitamin gummies is due to the higher palatability of the product, which is made from ingredients that make the taste not only acceptable but also delicious. They are usually made with gelatin, cornstarch, water, sugar, and colorings and flavorings to flavor popular fruits (such as strawberries, berries, and oranges).
watch your sugar
Vitamin lozenges and gummies have such a pleasant taste for a reason: they have a lot of sugar.
Sucrose and Glucose Syrup usually appear first on the ingredient list, indicating that they are the ingredients that are present in the highest quantity in the product.
In a small package of 18 grams, the brand is easy to find on the shelves of pharmacies, for example, you can find 15 grams of carbohydrates (that is, sugars). This is 60% of the AAA (American Heart Association) recommended daily amount of sugar for children and 60% of the daily amount recommended by the WHO (World Health Organization) as ideal for maintaining health.
This type of food is a bad choice because it tastes like you’re eating too much at a time, increasing your sugar intake and still risking a vitamin overdose.” Angelica Grekko, nutritionist.
Here is an explanation: an overdose of vitamins happens infrequently. However, contrary to what many people think, the body will not store this excess to use when needed and will excrete urine or feces. In other words, it is literally money thrown down the toilet.
sweet is not medicine
Anyone who has been to the pharmacy with children knows that their eyes light up when they come to the shelf with vitamins. The colorful fruit pots and funny characters are designed to grab the attention of anyone, especially those developing people.
But if it’s really necessary, encouraging the intake of these vitamins will not benefit children’s health. On the contrary, it can even harm the child’s development by addicting him to sweet, artificial and industrially processed foods and creating bad habits from an early age that can contribute to weight gain.
“Children and teens are increasingly overweight,” says Lima. “Why then encourage the consumption of something with a lot of sucrose and glucose syrup, as if it were good for health?” he asks.
“It’s like telling a child that eating sweets is good, because even drugs are good,” Grecco warns.
According to the Ministry of Health, 6.4 million children in Brazil are overweight; of these, 3.1 million have already developed obesity. PNS (National Health Survey) 2019 data by IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics) show that 19.4% of adolescents are overweight; of these, 6.7% are already obese.
The ideal would be to encourage the creation of good eating habits by consuming fresh and natural foods rather than getting nutrients through candy and gummies.