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What’s the deal with wellness gummies?

The wellness market in India is flooded with nutritional supplements in every form, but gummies are an especially buzzy segment. From PMS to hairfall, there is a gummy for everything. But do they work?

From immunity to sleep, skincare to haircare, period pain to weight loss, bone strength to urinary track health, there’s a gummy for everything
From immunity to sleep, skincare to haircare, period pain to weight loss, bone strength to urinary track health, there’s a gummy for everything (Unsplash)

Vitamin gummies. Your daily dose of vitamins and minerals packed in appetizingly little gummy bears. Colorful, flavorful and chewable, gummies (and jellies) are the latest fad in wellness supplements. Easier to consume and more palatable than tablets and syrups, they are a good alternative to traditional supplements. For people who have a hard time swallowing pills, or find the taste of tonics off-putting, gummies provide a way out.

Available in vegan, cruelty-free, sugar-free, gluten-free and gelatin-free options, gummies cater to a wide range of consumers. There are gummies for all ages and there are gummies for every need. From immunity to sleep, skincare to haircare, period pain to weight loss, bone strength to urinary track health, there’s a gummy for everything.

Ananya Kejriwal Agarwal, founder and CEO of Nyumi, a brand of multivitamin gummies for women, says she started her venture with a view to mitigate the nutrient deficiency in urban Indian women. “Our products focus on everyday wellness of women and are the result of two years of rigorous R&D by German and Indian experts.” The brand's initial product portfolio aims to solve five women's health issues—immunity, hair, skin, sleep and urinary tract wellness—through vegan and gluten-free gummies that pack a number of micronutrients and herbal extracts with therapeutic properties; for instance, its Radiant Skin Gummies contain eight ingredients including Vitamins C & E, Hyaluronic Acid (HLA) and curcumin extract.

Ananya Kejriwal Agarwal, founder and CEO of Nyumi
Ananya Kejriwal Agarwal, founder and CEO of Nyumi

Another brand, Power Gummies, has products that claim to alleviate menstrual discomfort. Their 'That Time of the Month' gummies are aimed at menstruating women and contain nutrients like Vitamin C (prevents iron deficiency and repairs body tissues), Vitamin B6 (reduces a broad range of PMS symptoms and mood swings), magnesium sulphate (relieves anxiety, insomnia and mood swings), passion flower extract (eases anxiety, helps in regulating body temperature and relaxes muscles), and citrus bioflavonoids (alleviates stress, improves digestion and reduces bloating).

But the question still remains—why gummies? Why are they suddenly so popular in India, and why now?

One reason could be Covid-19. When the pandemic broke, people rushed to stock up on dietary supplements to “boost” their immunity. They bought these not just for themselves, but for their entire families. A decline in physical activity due to lockdowns also led to people gaining weight, who then sought recourse in weight loss supplements. Even work-from-home disrupted people’s daily schedules and threw circadian rhythms out of whack, for which, again, the quick fix was supplements.

E-commerce made it easier for newer brands to penetrate remote markets and for consumers to access these products. Endorsements by social media influencers and celebs further popularized their use.

Gummy vitamins are irresistible too. They are perceived less as supplement and more as candy, which is why it is easier to feed them to small children. Vinay Ambali, Founder and CEO of pediatric gummy brand NutriBears, says their products are designed to make nutrition fun for kids. “Being a father, I understand how challenging it can be to get kids to eat healthy. This is where our gummies come in. We have multivitamin gummies for kids who are fussy eaters and calcium gummies for those who do not like milk.”

Vibrantly colored and attractively packaged, gummies come in a variety of flavors, textures and shapes to appeal to different tastes. One might hesitate to swallow a capsule, but likely not a gummy.

What experts say

“Fresh is always better than artificial,” says Hetal Vyas, Head of Dietetics, Jupiter Lifeline Hospital, Thane. “If you have a balanced diet with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, your body automatically gets all the nutrition it needs.”

Ritika Samaddar, Chief Dietician, Max Healthcare, Saket, New Delhi, agrees, adding the best sources of nutrition are natural. “But, if someone is unwell and needs extra nourishment, vitamin gummies are definitely a good idea, especially for children, who are more likely to take them than tablets.”

“However, be careful not to overdose,” she cautions. “Indiscriminate use of gummies can result in toxicity, which is when a nutrient essential for life is present far in excess of the recommended amount, which can then trigger complications.”

“The high sugar content in gummies is also worrisome. When feeding it to children, be mindful of the dosage. A child’s total daily sugar intake should be around 10-20 grams. If this is routinely exceeded, it can lead to childhood obesity.”

Dr Prashant Gandhi, a practicing pediatrician based in Mumbai, says, “The concept of gummy vitamins for kids is good, but there are limitations. The first is that you cannot give it to children below the age of two. Second, it is high on sugar which causes hyperactivity in children, so you want to monitor the dosage. Third, slip-ups can be risky. If you leave the bottle unattended, your child might gobble up 5-10 pieces at one go and come down with diarrhea and vomiting. This has happened before, so I always advise parents to be very very very careful while dealing with gummies.”

Vyas maintains sugar-free gummies are safer. But she still urges us to read the nutritional information at the back of the bottle carefully. “A human adult needs no more than 20-30 grams of sugars per day. So, make sure you are within that limit. Remember, you are also getting sugars from other foods in your diet, so be careful how many gummies you take. Overdosing can increase the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular problems.”

“Note the carbs too,” she goes on. “Sometimes a brand might market their products as sugar-free, but if you look closely, you will see that 50% of it is carbohydrates, which is not healthy. Also, most low-quality brands use saccharine, which you want to avoid. High-quality brands have fructose or sucrose, which are healthier.”

Samaddar states that the age of the product and the processing technique matters too. “Water-soluble vitamins like vitamin C and vitamin D are heat-liable, air-liable and water-liable. They lose their efficacy if they are subjected to heat or exposed to air, either during the manufacturing process or after it. For instance, the longer the product stays on the shelf, the more nutrients it loses through evaporation. So, it’s hard to tell how much nutrition is finally available to the body.”

“When we take our supplement and what we take along with it affects the absorbability of the nutrients,” explains Vyas. “For example, if you take a gummy after you’ve had a cup of tea or coffee, the tannins and caffeine in the tea or coffee can interfere with the absorption of vitamin C, iron and other minerals. Caffeine also increases urination, which can decrease the concentration of water-soluble vitamins (B-complex and C). Therefore, it’s good to wait an hour after your morning cuppa to take supplements. Similarly, calcium and iron inhibit each other’s absorbability. So, if you are taking an iron-rich gummy after breakfast, take the calcium one after dinner.”

Both Vyas and Samaddar recommend consulting a doctor or a dietician before getting started on gummies. Dr Gandhi insists gummies should only be given to “children with deficiencies, and it should be prescribed, not taken over the counter”.

Bottom line

Yes, multivitamin gummies work, but it’s best to see a doctor before taking any. Also, caveat emptor applies, so do read the ingredients’ list carefully before buying.

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