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What's the Best Vitamin Form: Gummy, Liquid or Tablet?

There are so many different options out there. How do you know which form is the most effective? Some say liquid, some say gummy, some say tablet. 

Before you go popping just any pill, it’s important to know that the FDA doesn’t regulate vitamins. Instead, third party agencies can give vitamins a stamp of approval. These include Consumerlab’s Approved Quality Product Seal, NSF’s International Dietary Supplement Certification, and U.S. Pharmacopeia’s (USP) Dietary Supplement Verification. Each verification is slightly different: The USP process, for example, verifies that the product actually contains the ingredients listed on the label, that one serving does not contain an unsafe amount of any ingredient, and that the company has followed the FDA’s Good Manufacturing Practices. But while these verifications do exist, vitamin companies are not required to pass any of them. And more importantly, even if a company’s regular vitamins do have a certification, it doesn’t mean their other products (like, say, gummy vitamins) do.

While gummy vitamins are certainly the most appealing option because they're usually sweet, and easy to consume for those who have trouble swallowing pills, they may contain smaller amounts of vitamins compared to chewables or tablets. Also, it's easy for people to consume more than the recommended amount because they're tasty but it also increases your sugar intake.

These gummies also usually have glucose syrup, sucrose, gelatin which stick to your teeth, creating a breeding ground for the demineralization of those pearly whites. Even if the gummies don’t contain sugar, what we call ‘biofilm’ is always naturally forming on your teeth, so if they don’t get cleaned properly, plaque is bound to develop

Another undesirable ingredient that is often included in gummy vitamins is food coloring.  Artificial food dyes are likely carcinogenic, cause hypersensitivity reactions and behavioral problems, or are inadequately tested.

Many liquid supplement manufacturers claim that because their product is in a liquid form it is more bioavailable. Bioavailability means the degree and rate at which a substance (as a drug) is absorbed into a living system – or more correctly, the degree or rate at which it is ultimately made available at the site of physiological activity. Different vitamins and minerals have different absorption rates regardless of whether they come from a tablet, liquid, powder, or food. Calcium, for example, has a fairly standard absorption rate (25-35%), and the form does not generally make a significant difference.

A well-made tablet provides a very effective delivery system and is the form of choice for most pharmaceutical medications. This is because tablets have been confirmed, through years of carefully controlled studies, as a reliable and efficient delivery system for medications. Why would vitamin and mineral supplements be any different? Does anyone doubt that an aspirin tablet is ineffective because it comes in a tablet?

Tableted products can also provide an increased amount of active ingredient (almost 3x as much as a capsule and much more than a liquid or spray). In general, the stability of tablets is also superior to liquids.

Finally, liquid supplement promoters often contend that liquids are better because they don’t contain fillers (excipients used in tablets for disintegration, form, binding, coating, etc). This is perhaps the most illogical argument of all, since liquid supplements require many more “other” ingredients, including emulsifiers, solvents, preservatives, stabilizing agents, coloring, flavoring, and more. Generally speaking, the more vitamin and mineral ingredients there are in a liquid supplement, the more excipients that product will require.