Candy-like supplements help the vitamins go down, but is this trend a good idea?

Candy-coated vitamins may seem like the supplement world's equivalent of a salad loaded with cheese and ranch dressing, and actually in some cases it is. With kids, it can be worth the sugarcoating to get them to take their A’s, B’s and C’s. Yet the growing popularity of sweet-tasting chewable vitamins for adults means these treats are no longer the sole domain of children. With names like GummyVites and VitaCraves, the new crop of adult vitamins are surprisingly candy-like, from Vitamin C gumballs and probiotic candy dots to chewy calcium brownies and multi-vitamin Pixie Sticks.

The colorful packaging and branding are designed to seduce the kid in all of us, but we’re wondering how healthy these chew-ables really are. After all, the whole purpose of taking a daily supplement is to improve and maintain good health, not increase cavities or aggravate a diabetic condition. Regardless, concerns over the nutritional value of the new vitamins don't seem to be slowing down sales. Church & Dwight CEO Jim Craigie told Ad Age that sales of his company’s Avid vitamin have increased by 20 percent. 

For some fans, the vitamins are the answer to a long-standing fear of or difficulty with swallowing pills. Others may like the ease and variety of a chewable when they have to down a handful of capsules. "I care for many patients who take upwards of 10 supplements and medications on a daily basis," says Scott Jacobs, M.D. of White Memorial Medical Center in Los Angeles. “I think these are easier to tolerate than standard pills and capsules." It all translates to sweet sales numbers for the supplement industry and a market sector that's seeing explosive growth. But if the increase in sales is an indication of people's growing concern for their health, is a dessert doubling as a multi-v too good to be true? 

It's important to know what exactly is getting ingested along with the nutrients. "I caution patients to read the labels to make sure they aren’t loaded with sugar or other additives," says Jacobs. Indeed some are. Reading the labels, it varies from no sugar to eight grams per serving, which can be significant for diabetics. Some even contain chemical additives such as food dyes and artificial sweeteners like aspartame or high-fructose corn syrup. Meanwhile some brands like AlternaVites are taking the high road by producing gluten-free, vegan and kosher options that use healthier sugar alternatives like Xylitol. 

Big kids gravitating to the colorful, chewy and flavorful textures for the same reasons as toddlers need to be careful of treating sweet supplements like candy and ingesting too much iron or Vitamin A. Even though they’re vitamins, like candy, it can be tough to have just one.