Tablet, spray or gummy ...what’s best for YOUR needs?
FACED with a bewildering range of different supplement formulations — tablet, spray, gummy, fizzy — which one should you choose? Cost may be a guide: multivitamins can vary enormously in price from just £3 for a month’s supply to £20.
Yet as Margaret Rayman, a professor of nutritional medicine at the University of Surrey, says: ‘It would be wrong to assume that just because you’re paying more, you are getting a better product.’
The cheapest safe format is a supermarket or chemist own-brand tablet. Other formats (dissolvables, sprays, gummies) are usually more expensive. For instance, Centrum MultiGummies are 25p each, compared with 17p for a Centrum tablet.
So which formulation is best for you? (To find out if premium brands are worth the added cost, read tomorrow’s pullout in The Mail on Sunday.)
ThESE have a longer shelf life than liquids or gummies, but are not always suitable for delivering large doses, which might make them harder to swallow. however, supplement tablets can be halved if a smaller dose is required.
USUALLY capsules have a gelatine case, which breaks down while passing through the gut, meaning their contents are absorbed more swiftly. They’re easier to swallow than tablets, and some (such as probiotics) have cases formulated to withstand stomach acid so that they release their contents lower down the digestive tract.
ThESE ensure the nutrient is absorbed quickly into the bloodstream and are convenient for children and the elderly who find swallowing tablets difficult.
Sprays also avoid potential absorption problems if you have gut conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). But you might have to pay a premium for what should be a cheap nutrient, says Professor Rayman.
ThESE look and taste like sweets. ‘Gummies might be good for children who can’ t swallow tablets but they’re not great for adults,’ says pharmacist Aidan Goggins. ‘ You might as well buy a pack of wine gums and a low-cost supplement. It’s all about context,’ he says. ‘If a child won’t take tablets, getting nutrients in through gummies is better than not getting them at all.
‘But when you grow up that’s not a justifiable compromise as most of the ingredient space is used for the gummy — so you can only fit in low doses of the nutrient. Frankly, you have to ask: “Is this more confectionery than nutrition?” Psychologically, we should be affirming that supplements are a serious subject, not an alternative to haribo.’
FIzzY tablet versions of vitamins are popular. They are claimed to be easier on the stomach and more rapidly absorbed (as the compound is already dissolved when you drink it).
This is particularly true for magnesium oxide, says Aidan Goggins. It means you get more of the active ingredient in a lower dose and fewer risks of sideeffects such as diarrhoea.
MAnY supplements, from iron to vitamin C and calcium, come in liquid form — and taking them in this way could be better for you.
On swallowing a vitamin pill, your body enters a race against time to break down the casing of capsules, or the hard glue of tablets, in order to access the nutrients.
‘ Conventional tablets are dissolved more slowly, which can mean absorption is reduced,’ says Aidan Goggins.
‘ If they haven’t completely broken down by the time they reach the small intestine, some of the nutrient will pass out as waste before it can be absorbed into the bloodstream.
‘ Liquid forms, though, are already dissolved and so will often be absorbed faster and more completely,’ he explains.
‘Liquid also allows for larger doses and is easier to swallow, so it is invaluable for those who have a problem swallowing tablets.’
however, liquid supplements can cost three times as much.
HERE are some tips to help you choose a liquid vitamin:
CHECK FOR ADDED FAT: With fatsoluble vitamins, such as vitamin D or E, look for formulations with added fats such as coconut oil. These will help your body absorb the vitamins fully.
WATCH SUGAR LEVELS: One downside of liquid supplements is that they can contain lots of sugar to make them taste more pleasant. Check the label. Ideally a product should contain less than 2.5mg of sugar per 100ml to be considered low in sugar.
MEASURE OUT YOUR DOSE: When taking liquid vitamins, read the exact dosage on the bottle. Do not be tempted to just take a swig. Overdosing on some vitamins, such as vitamin A or iron, can have grave side- effects, warns Aidan Goggins.
Use the measuring cap, syringe or spoon provided, he adds. ‘ People make dosing errors ranging from confusion with the units, to whether to use a teaspoon or tablespoon.’
STORE IT RIGHT: Many liquid supplements have a shorter shelf life than other forms. Their water content makes them less stable, plus air exposure each time the lid comes off can further degrade nutrients. Most need to be refrigerated after opening. THESE are some nutrients that experts suggest are better in liquid form:
OMEGA 3s: Due to the large amount needed for a useful dose of the EPA and DhA fatty acids they contain, omega-3 supplements usually come in a large capsule. Taking fish oil in liquid form may be more palatable, says Aidan Goggins.
IRON: ‘ There’s evidence that liquid iron may be easier to absorb than tablets,’ says Lindsy Kass, a sports and nutrition scientist at the University of hertfordshire.
‘And iron gluconate [a salt] is better than the iron ferrous salts that most supplements contain, which are harder to absorb and can cause stomach irritation.’ MAGNESIUM: Most tablets contain magnesium oxide as it’s cheap. But your body struggles to absorb much of it, says Aidan Goggins. ‘Taking a liquid formula which contains magnesium chloride will maximise how much you absorb. It’s also less likely to cause diarrhoea.’
AND one you probably don’t need to take in liquid form: VITAMIN C: This nutrient ‘ becomes unstable in a liquid formulation’, says Lindsy Kass, so your dose will become lower each time the bottle is opened. Powder or tablet forms are more stable.
COMPILED BY: LOUISE ATKINSON and Caroline Jones NOTE: Consult your GP or pharmacist before taking vitamins or supplements, particularly if taking any prescribed medication, in case of contraindications.