If you have not read part 1 (the benefits of nutritional supplements) or part 2 (deciphering the label) of this series then please check those articles out before reading further.

You wake up, throw on your robe, stroll downstairs, and start to get ready for the day. After eating a quick breakfast, it is time to Pop-Pillz. Two blue horse-pills, followed by three even larger gel-capsules, all to be washed down by a magenta liquid-fizzing-tonic—Yum!

Many Americans follow outrageous nutritional supplement regimens just to maintain a generally healthy state. Part 3 of the supplement blog series addresses various formulations of your favorite multivitamin (MVI). After reading this article you will be able to make educated changes to your supplement regimen to achieve the most BANG for your buck!

*Side note: While I do have my own preference for nutritional supplements, this article is not intended to steer your buying decision in any one direction.

What is the best formulation for my MVI—gummy, chewable, tablet, capsule, or liquid?

The short answer- there is no “best” type for all, but only the best type for you! Products come in different forms to appeal to specific populations. For instance, children often prefer gummy or chewable MVIs because of their taste for sweet and the choking hazard associated with swallowing pills. Conversely, people with food sensitivities/allergies may prefer a hypo-allergenic, plant-based capsule with minimal added ingredients.

Adherence is another factor to consider when it comes to choosing the ideal formulation for you. If I asked you to take 6 capsules throughout the day with food and 8-oz of water, would you be able to comply with that regimen long-term?

This is often the scenario with food-based MVI products because of limitations in condensing nutrients to fit into pill form. On the other hand, if I asked you to take 1, 4-oz MVI beverage, with or without food at any point in the day would that be easier to follow?

Key takeaway- know your habits and lifestyle before committing to a daily supplement regimen.

“Other” Ingredients:

Consider your exposure to “other” ingredients when making a buying decision. Check out this ingredient label of a common chewable MVI:

flintstones label

You may notice it contains various sweeteners, including sugar alcohols like sorbitol and mannitol. It also contains pure fructose, artificial flavors and colors (i.e. red#40, blue#2, yellow #6). It may taste yummy and look appealing, but is this really what you want out of your nutritional supplement?

Powder and liquid MVI formulations often contain artificial colors/flavors and added sweeteners as well. These formulations differ in quality, from brand to brand, and usually have shorter shelf lives than tablets or capsules.

Powders may also clump and disperse poorly if exposed to stressful environments (i.e. heat, light, and moisture). This may not be the right product for you if you tend to go long stretches without taking the product or travel frequently. 

Below is the label of a commonly consumed MVI tablet, which does not contain the additives found in the chewable, liquid or powder varieties.

one a day labelIt has fairly minimal “other” ingredients, but you may notice stearic acid (a long-chain saturated fat found naturally in many foods) and magnesium stearate (a magnesium salt used to keep the ingredients from sticking together) listed. The jury is still out on whether or not these ingredients impact the breakdown and absorption of nutrients (1, 2). Some supplement manufacturers err on the side of caution and choose to exclude these ingredients.

The Battle Royale: Tablet Vs. Capsule

The last battle to tackle is tablet v. capsule. Swallowability (yes, a word I just invented) is a factor here. Some people report capsules, which are typically slicker, as easier to swallow, while others report no difference between the two.

Another component of these formulations to consider is absorption of nutrients. Highly compressed, rock-hard tablets may not breakdown adequately in the gut, preventing optimal absorption of valuable nutrients. Capsules are less dense and often dissolve quickly (3).

It is important to educate yourself. If you currently have a MVI you regularly use follow these steps:

  • Go home and check the label of your product:
    • See if you can find any certifications of purity or ingredient standards.
    • What kind of formulation do you prefer?
    • Can you comply with the serving suggestion (1 v 6 capsules per day)?
    • Are there unnecessary ingredients in your product that you would prefer not to consume?
  • Maybe you need help assessing your product- make an appointment with me and I will provide a nutritional-supplement review. Bring in the whole cupboard of pills and we will talk about the labels and make appropriate changes to your supply.

There is much more territory to cover related to supplementation…so stay tuned for part 4 where I will discuss nutrients of interest and factors impacting their absorption in your body.