Over the years, the vitamin aisle in most grocery stores and pharmacies has grown to epic proportions. Gummies, powders, tablets...the options seem endless. But the wall of products that you often see at the store (or online) can be overwhelming and confusing. Even if you know what vitamin you are looking for, there might be dozens of different bottles with different doses or different combinations of nutrients.
To address this concern, vitamin companies have come up with an interesting solution: personalized daily vitamins. Generally offered as a subscription service, this option allows you to have your individualized combination delivered right to your door. But there are pros and cons to this concierge service and it is important to understand both before you decide if it is right for you.
What Are Personalized Daily Vitamins?
Personalized daily vitamins offer a solution to the overwhelmed vitamin shopper. Subscription vitamin and supplement companies not only offer to send you the tablets you want, they also help you to identify which vitamins you need and how much to take. The companies claim that they can identify and meet your personalized vitamin needs with precision and ease. They may use online quizzes or they may evaluate your medical history and records (with your permission) to come up with the proper combination.
Your personalized vitamins might come in standard bottles, but often you get pre-packaged combinations of supplements in individualized vitamin packs. You simply open your packet for the day and take your vitamins as directed.
Why Do We Need Vitamins At All?
The foods you eat and drink provide your body with the macronutrients and micronutrients that it needs. Macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fat) give you the calories you need to fuel your body. Micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals you need to maintain healthy cells, healthy tissue, and healthy organs.
Vitamins (like vitamin C) are organic substances that come from plants or animals. Minerals (like calcium or iron) are inorganic and come from soil and water. Your body needs both vitamins and minerals. Even though vitamins and minerals are different, many times, products that are labelled as "vitamin packs" or "multivitamins" contain both vitamins and minerals.
Vitamins and minerals have a lot of responsibilities in your body. For instance, calcium helps you to build and maintain healthy teeth and bones. Iron is essential for your body to make hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells. And then there is a wide array of important vitamins. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) gives us this breakdown:
|What Vitamins Do for You|
|Vitamin A|| |
Important for vision, reproduction, immune system function, heart and lung function, and growth and development.
|Vitamin B1||Helps to turn the food you eat into energy.|
|Vitamin B6||Important for brain development during pregnancy and infancy; involved in immune system function and metabolism.|
|Vitamin B12||Maintains blood and nerve cells; helps make DNA.|
|Vitamin C||Protects the body's cells from infection or toxins; used to create collagen used by the skin to help wounds heal.|
|Vitamin D||Helps calcium strengthen bones; allows nerves to carry messages from the brain to the body and back; used by the immune system to fight disease.|
|Vitamin E||Used by cells to communicate with each other; boosts the immune system; widens blood vessels so clots don't get stuck.|
|Vitamin K||Allows blood to clot when it comes into contact with air.|
Your age, gender, activity level, height, and weight all play a role in determining the amount of each vitamin and mineral that you need each day. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides a calculator that takes all of this into account and can give you an estimate of your specific vitamin needs.
Health and nutrition experts suggest that you can get all of the vitamins and minerals you need by consuming a balanced and nutritious diet. But they also acknowledge that supplements can be helpful to fill in the gaps if you avoid certain types of food or if your diet doesn't provide adequate nutrition.
Pros and Cons of Personalized Daily Vitamins
The idea of getting a personalized recipe of vitamins and minerals developed just for you can sound appealing. After all, who wouldn't want to provide their body with the exact nutrients it needs each day to function at its best? Certainly, there are benefits to paying for this service. But there are some drawbacks as well. Consider both the advantages and disadvantages of personalized daily vitamin packets before deciding if they are right for you.
- Convenience: Supplements are shipped directly to your door, so there is no need for time-consuming trips to the supplement store. Some companies offer personalized daily packets so there is no need to open several bottles to put together your proper daily dose.
- Personalized for your specific needs: These companies claim to build you an individual vitamin regimen based on a variety of factors. These may include your: activity, age, diet, DNA testing, health conditions, or height and weight. Not every organization uses every one of these factors to determine your personalized nutrient pack.
- Expert help: Some personalized vitamin-makers offer guidance from healthcare providers and dieticians. When you are first trying to decide which vitamins you need most, they can be a valuable voice.
- Can be expensive: Some companies offer individual bottles which can cost as little as $4, but almost all companies will recommend more than one bottle. Others offer a monthly subscription that can get over $100/month depending on which vitamins you order. Comparison shopping at your local store may be more cost-effective if budget is a concern.
- DNA inaccuracy: Sometimes DNA testing can be interpreted incorrectly or only partially interpreted. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not fully regulate these kinds of home tests, and so you could get a false negative or false positive result for certain genes.
One older study had several people from different backgrounds fill out questionnaires for a personalized vitamin company. They discovered this company sent out the same vitamin mix for everyone, no matter their questionnaire answers, even though some of them had health conditions that should have mattered. However, no other cases like this have been reported.
- Personalization may be oversimplified: Some questionnaires can oversimplify your needs. Many do not take your medical history into account, and others only ask for your basic information like height, weight, and lifestyle. Your body uses vitamins in an intricate and complicated dance, and an online quiz may not be able to capture your needs with accuracy.
- You may get more than you need: If you eat a fairly healthy diet that includes fruits and vegetables, it can be easy to take too much of one vitamin or another if you supplement with tablets and powders.
Where to Get Personalized Daily Vitamins
If you've decided to invest in personalized vitamin packs, you can choose from quite a few vitamin companies. They differ by price, quiz vs. DNA swab, and bottles vs. packets. When choosing a company, make sure that they follow the FDA's Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMPs), and be sure they clearly label what they give you. If they are vague about what's in it, move on. Here are just a few of your options:
- Care/of provides vitamin packs that focus on overall health and wellness with special attention to gut health.
- Gainful focuses on fitness and provides personalized performance nutrition to customers.
- HUM also focuses on gut health with supplements that they advertise to be "clean" and clinically tested.
Nurish by Nature Made offers a monthly subscription for convenience, but you'll also find this brand in many stores around the country.
Persona provides a quiz and gathers information about your lifestyle and wellness goals to help find the perfect combination of vitamins.
Ritual offers non-GMO vitamins, multivitamins, protein powders, gut health products and vitamins for specific stages in life, such as pregnancy.
Roman sells vitamin pack to men to address their specific concerns, such as hair loss or low testosterone.
If you would like to try personalized vitamins, make sure you keep your healthcare provider in the loop. Remember that the FDA does not regulate supplements like they do medications, so use caution with all over-the-counter products like this. If your provider gives you the go ahead, peruse your options, try one out, and wait for your personal concoction to arrive!