At what point does the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down become counterproductive?
The vitamin and mineral supplement market is thriving. In 2014, people worldwide spent close to $37 billion on them; by 2020, that number is expected to be closer to $39 billion, even though many doctors that have questioned their efficacy.
Taking vitamins is like having a nutritional “safety net,” according to Katherine Zeratsky, a registered dietician with the Mayo Clinic. Although most people can get all their nutritional needs through their regular diets, multivitamins serve as a guarantee that all your bases are covered.
Multivitamins, though, can be kind of hard to swallow. “[They] can be nasty,” Paul Breslin, a nutrition scientist at Rutgers University, told the New York Times. Often, they’re massive pills with a distinct odor. But make it a sweet gummy and it goes down a lot smoother.
As consumers have demanded more chewable supplements, producers have happily obliged. Now, there are products like the Smarty Pants Adult Complete vitamin, which, per serving, have 50 calories and eight grams of sugar. That’s more than two Hershey’s kisses.
A little extra sugar probably won’t hurt you. But there are certain micronutrients that can be harmful in high enough quantities. Our bodies can easily get rid of excess vitamins that dissolve in water, like vitamin C, all the B vitamins, and folate, but they hold onto the ones that are fat soluble. Buildup of vitamin A, K, E, or D—all of which are necessary in low levels—can cause problems with your heart and kidneys, and can even be fatal in some cases.
This isn’t to say that all multivitamin pills are bad. They’re necessary for certain individuals with dietary restrictions who can’t get their nutrients otherwise, and they’re probably not harmful if you take a single dose per day. But if you want a midday sugary pick-me-up, you’re probably better off just treating yourself to some actual gummy bears or chocolate.