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Vitamins: Gummies fill the gap

What are the os and cons of taking vitamin supplements you can suck and chew like sweets? Judy Hobson inveestigates

Fruit-flavoured vitamin gummies for children who don't eat enough fresh fruit and vegetables have been around for some time. But they are no longer just the preserve of children- they ae now available in adult formulations too.

Introducing them for adults means that people with swallowing difficulties can now increase their levels of vitamin C and vitamin D and boost their immune system.

As people grow older they often find swallowing increasingly difficult, paricularly if they also suffer from a dry mouth. Therefore they can be deterred from taking nutritional supplements in tablet or capsule form.

Every mroning many older people start the day  by having to swallow several prescription pills. This can lead to 'pill fatigue' where they simply cannot face putting another tablet of any sort in their mouts. The very thought makes them gag. On average, someone over 60 in the UK is on four prescription pills a day, which depletes them of the essential nutrients they need to keep well.

In an ideal world everyone should be getting all the vitamins and nutrients they need by eating a varied diet containing lots of fresh frui and veg. However, elderly people, particularly those living laone, can find this dificult. 

Not surprisingly, repeated government surveys reveal the poor nutrient status of the Uk population.

Dr Emma Derbyshire from the Health and Food Supplements Information Service says: "Most of this is down to the fact that people find it hard to meet their five-a-day fruit and vegetable targets, yet it is vital we have the right nutrients daily to safeguard our health and welbeing and to fuel our bodies. Taking a multivitamin to help bridge these dietaary gaps in common sense."

Mindful of the problems some people have taking tablets, manufacvturers of vitamin products have begun producing supplements in gummy or soft gell form for adults, and over the past two years these have started appearing on the shelves in our health food shops.

Because they can simply be sucked or chewed, gummie are much easier to take than tablets and their fruit flavours give them a nice taste, which encourages people to take them consistently. Bow let us take a look at the cons. 

Because gummies and soft gells are more difficult to manufacture then routine vitamin tablets does.

Clinical nutritionist Suzy Sawyer explains: "They are challenging to manufacture becuase you want the taste to be acceptable which means you can't have too high a level of minerals. Also physically you can't  get the same levels of vitamins into a gummy or soft gell as you can into a tablet. B vitamins, for example, can taste yeasty, so you don't get as high a level of hem in a gell as you would in a tablet."

Leading dietician Dr Carrie Ruxton adds: "While it is accepted that gummies don't contain as much off the vitamin as a traditional tablet or capsule would, if these can't be tolerated then a lower-dose gummy is better than nothg.

"It is also worth noting that despite government advice that everyone 65 and over should take a year round vitamin D supplemment, only gfour in ten do so. this means there are many older people who could benefit from appropriate dietary supplementation, and health professionals should be aware of the new options now available when giving advice to older poeple."

It is, however, important to bear in minf that although they are tasty, gummies and soft gells are not sweets but supplements. In addition to fruit flavours, they contain sweeteners so it is advisable not to take more than the recommended dose.

Indeed, earlier this year vitamin gummies were panned in a Daily Mail article for their sugar content. 

Dr Derbyshire counters: "Gummies m ay contain veyr marginal amoutns of natural sugar forms. as the quantity of sugar consumed by taking these supplements in gummy form ids very low, we should not be discouraging thepublic who are currentlly short of essential vitamins and minerals from taking them."

And Dr Ruxton, who welcomes the introduction of gummies  for adults, says: "Some older poeple who wold benefit from taking a daily miltivitamin find themselves unable to do so due to pill fatigue or swallowing problems. Gummies provide them with an alternative because they can be chewed and are easy to swallow.

"It's true that some contain sugar but the smounts are negligible and are not worth worrying about. Comments in the press that gummies provide a teaspoon of sugar are wide of the mark, as most weight only 2g to 3g and are nor 100 percent sugar.

"If people are concerned about their sugar intake, a more effective way is for them to reduce htier consumption of cakes, biscuits, sweets, preserces and sugary drinks, as these food groups contribute most of the sugar in adult diets.

"Warning people off gmmies will make little difference to their sugar intakes but could deprive many of a convenient method of boosting their nutrient intake."

Mediccal herbalist Dr Chris Etheridge's 82 year old mother takes a daily multivitamin gummy.

He says: "They are particularly enefical for those who don't eat a balanced diet or need additional nutrients because of a health issue.

"The quantity of sugar in them is low. I believe we should not be discouraging those who may be short of essential vitamins and minerals from taking them. IF a low sugar diet is necessary for health resons- for example those with diabetes- sugar free ones are available.

"I take a multivitamin tablet because I don't mind taking pills but I would definitely consider trying a gummy as an alternative"

Dr Ruxton points out that all supplements on the UK market meet stringent EU regulations and provide people wiht a safe, effective way of boosting intakes of vitamins and minerals.

If older peole are looking for a supplement, she advises them to choose one designed for their age group becuase the levels of nutrients rpovided will be suitable for their circumstances- for example, they will have higher levels of vitamin D and calcium to spport bone health.

When looking for a multivitamin gummy, Dr Etheridge advises going for a qualiy brand that contains good levels of vitamin D and B vitamins.

Well-known brands include Nature's Way Alive!, Boots, Centrum and Nature's Bounty.

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