If you’re looking for ways to reduce your risk of certain diseases, combat a vitamin deficiency, or enhance your overall health and well-being, then supplements may be the answer for you. Even though you can get many essential nutrients in a balanced diet, supplements are a good health insurance policy because it can be difficult to get everything you need with food alone.
However, there are many different forms of supplements – each with various pros and cons – and it may seem overwhelming to choose the right form for you. So, how do you know which one will work best for you and your needs?
Before we further examine the differences between the various supplement forms, let’s first discuss the importance of supplementation and why you should consider it.
While you can get many nutrients from a healthful, well-balanced diet, you may not get all of them on a regular basis. Evidence shows that only 10% and 12% of adults meet the daily fruit and vegetable intake recommendations, respectively [ 1 2
1]. Other research also indicates that over 90% of the US population does not meet the daily requirement for vitamins A, C, D, and E, as well as for magnesium and calcium [
With so many people falling short on vitamins and other essential nutrients, supplementation could be a reasonable solution. While supplements aren’t a replacement for food, they are effective for treating nutritional deficiencies and can be a good insurance policy to have in your diet, as they fill in the gaps and make up for any nutritional shortfalls.
Research has shown that supplementation may also provide significant benefits for specific groups and indications. For instance, alpha lipoic acid vitamin C 3 4
alpha lipoic acidcan be beneficial for cholesterol reduction, and
vitamin Cmay reduce the duration of the common cold [
When choosing supplements, be sure to select ones that are third-party tested. Learn more about why that’s important with
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Dietary supplements come in a variety of forms. Here’s a breakdown of the different types of supplements, as well as some pros and cons associated with them.
Whether in the kids section or down an aisle at Whole Foods, we’ve all seen a variety of gummies for sale. These chewable vitamins are heralded as a tasty way to get your nutrients in and come in a multitude of shapes, colors, and flavors meant to appeal to children and adults alike. However, despite the colorful marketing schemes, the question remains: Are gummy vitamins effective?
Here are some pros and cons of taking gummy vitamins.
Contains beneficial nutrients. Gummy vitamins can pack a powerful nutrition punch, as these chewable supplements are enriched with a variety of essential vitamins and minerals (such as vitamin C calcium vitamin D multivitamin
vitamin D, and a
multivitamin) that play crucial roles in supporting overall health.
Simple to take. Gummy vitamins can be a great option for children and adults who prefer an alternative to traditional pills, struggle with swallowing capsules, are picky eaters, and/or struggle to maintain a balanced diet.
Easier to become a habit. Because gummy vitamins come in a variety of flavors and colors, they can be more enjoyable to take than a traditional supplement pill. This can lead to an enjoyable supplement experience, which may help you take them more consistently.
May contain unwanted ingredients. While gummy vitamins might seem like a fun way to get your daily dose of nutrients, they may contain some unwanted ingredients such as added sugar, artificial colors and flavors, animal-derived gelatin, carmine, and beeswax. Learn more about these gummy ingredients
gummy ingredientsyou may want to avoid.
Easy to overeat. Thanks to the many flavors and ease of use, gummy vitamins tend to go down a lot easier than traditional supplement pills. This could potentially lead to consuming more than you need and put you at risk for vitamin and mineral toxicity [ 5
Unreliable dosage. Experts suggest that gummy vitamins become less potent over time due to their limited shelf stability. This means that manufacturers tend to over-pack gummy vitamins with more nutrients than the label says to allow for their strength to wear off over time [ 6
Powders usually consist of a single ingredient (or a combination of ingredients) and are ideal for getting a large amount of macronutrients–like protein
protein–in at once.
Here are some pros and cons associated with powders.
User-friendly. Powders are a good option for people who don’t like swallowing tablets or capsules.
Versatile. Whether it’s water, coffee, or smoothies, you can easily incorporate powders into your everyday foods and drinks.
Inconvenient for travel. Powders usually come in a large container, so unless you pre-measure, they can be inconvenient to carry.
Inconsistent measurements. Each scoop may contain a different amount of powder based on a variety of user-error factors (such as how tightly the powder is packed, if it was scored off at the top, or if the scoop was wet or not).
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Tablets are one of the most common supplement forms, as they are affordable and easily accessible to the general public. They are made with active powered ingredients to form a solid pill that breaks down in the digestive tract, and many contain additives that improve the taste, texture, or appearance [ 7
Here are some pros and cons of taking tablets.
Cost effective. In general, tablets are cheaper to manufacture, which makes them a more affordable option for consumers.
Varied size. Tablets come in a variety of shapes and sizes, making it easier for the consumer to choose which one will suit their needs.
Ease of use. For those who have trouble swallowing tablets, they can rely on chewable or orally-disintegrating tablet forms.
Dose splitting. Scored tablets can be split apart for various reasons, such as ease of swallowing.
Shelf-stable. Tablets tend to be more shelf-stable and have a longer lifespan.
Hard to swallow: If you struggle with swallowing pills, then this supplement form may be challenging for you to take.
Less palatable. Some people may find that the tablet’s outer coating causes a bad aftertaste.
Capsules are another common form of supplementation that includes ingredients enclosed in an outer shell. There are two forms: hard shell and soft gel capsules, each one providing a different use depending on your needs [ 7
Here are some pros and cons of taking capsules.
Fast acting. Drugs tend to be absorbed more quickly from capsules filled with liquid than from those filled with solid particles [ 8
Tamper-resistant. Unlike tablets, capsules are not as easy to break apart, so they should be taken as intended.
Less durable. Capsules may react to environmental conditions; as such, they tend to be less durable and expire faster than tablets.
May contain animal products. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, be sure to read the ingredient label, as capsules may contain gelatin sourced from animal products.
When considering which form is best, consider the one that works best for you and fits your body, lifestyle, and nutritional needs. For instance, if you have a problem swallowing pills, then a powder or gummy vitamin may work better for you.
Supplements are a good way to help reduce your risk of certain diseases, combat a vitamin deficiency, and/or enhance your overall health and well-being. Between gummy vitamins, capsules, powders, and tablets, there are many different forms of supplements available, all of which have various pros and cons. While it may seem overwhelming to pick the right one for you, you should make your decision based on how each supplement would best fit your body, lifestyle, and nutritional needs.
If you’re confused about which ones are right for you, Elo Health can help. We determine the right supplements for you based on your biomarkers and wearable data so you can reach your goals.
Disclaimer: The text, images, videos, and other media on this page are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to treat, diagnose or replace personalized medical care.
While supplements aren’t a replacement for food, they are a good insurance policy to have in your diet, as they fill in the gaps and make up for any nutritional shortfalls.
Capsules, powders, gummy vitamins, and tablets are common supplement forms, and each has its pros and cons.
The supplement form that works best for you is the one that fits your body, lifestyle, and nutritional needs.
When choosing supplements, be sure to go for ones that are third-party tested, as this ensures a product meets quality and safety standards.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, January 6). Adults meeting fruit and vegetable intake recommendations - United States, 2019. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/71/wr/mm7101a1.htm
Micronutrient inadequacies in the US population: An overview. Linus Pauling Institute. (2023, January 3). https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/micronutrient-inadequacies/overview
Mousavi, S. M., Shab-Bidar, S., Kord-Varkaneh, H., Khorshidi, M., & Djafarian, K. (2019). Effect of alpha-lipoic acid supplementation on lipid profile: A systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled clinical trials. Nutrition (Burbank, Los Angeles County, Calif.), 59, 121–130. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nut.2018.08.004
Common colds: Does vitamin C keep you healthy? (n.d.). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279544/
Gaby McPherson, M. S. (2023, July 28). What happens to your body if you eat too many Vitamin Gummies. EatingWell. https://www.eatingwell.com/article/8060318/what-happens-if-you-eat-too-many-vitamin-gummies/#toc-what-happens-if-you-eat-too-many-vitamin-gummies
Kaputk. (2022, December 9). Do gummy vitamins work as well as traditional vitamins?. Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/do-gummy-vitamins-work-as-well-as-traditional-vitamins/
Vandergriendt, C. (2020, February 20). Capsule vs. Tablet: Types, differences, pros and cons. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/capsule-vs-tablet#tablet
Le, J. (2023, August 30). Drug absorption - drugs. MSD Manual Consumer Version. https://www.msdmanuals.com/home/drugs/administration-and-kinetics-of-drugs/drug-absorption