Chewy, colourful, vitamin-filled — health gummies are the latest fad to emerge from Covid

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New Delhi: Gelatinous, sweet and colourful — health gummies are the latest rage in the health and beauty industry with people, especially the younger folk, opting for these ‘tastier supplements’.

Made with gelatin, corn starch, water and sugar, these gummies are used for various purposes including hair and skin care, weight management and even protection of eyes from increased screen time.

While these supplements were traditionally meant for children and the elderly, beauty and wellness companies have capitalised on their taste and ease of use to offer skin, hair and dietary supplements and vitamins. And younger people have really taken to them, especially in the past year.

In 2020, companies like Bodywise, Man Matters, Setu among others launched several of these gummies as the latest cure-all for various health issues and as dietary supplements, mostly for the Indian youth. An average pack of gummies, which lasts a month, can cost anywhere between Rs 300-Rs 500.

While experts say these supplements can help, they also caution against their excessive use, warning that too much intake has its own side-effects. Mumbai-based nutritionist Rhea Dhillon says gummies or tablets, these are meant to be taken along with a balanced diet and not in lieu of.

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Increasingly popular during pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic led to several people stocking up on vitamins and other implements in a bid to increase immunity against the virus. As a result, these gummy supplements also became steadily popular in the past year.

But gummies are also fast becoming the preferred mode of taking supplements in place of tablets. According to Geet Rathi, brand head of Man Matters, which claims to be India’s first online clinic only for men, noted that this is because gummies are more interesting and tastier.

“India is not a pill-popping nation … unlike the Western countries, here people associate pills with chronic diseases and don’t like taking pills. Supplements in the form of pills is a very hard habit to stick to and compliance is key when it comes to supplementation. Gummies prove to be an interesting and the yummy form factor solves both of the above problems,” he told ThePrint.

Rathi also noted that they introduced ‘Gummies’ in May 2020, and since then the sales of the product grew 4.5 times on a quarter to quarter basis.

He added that the hair health segment continues to be the most popular for them, followed by weight management and skin health.

Setu, an online health supplement store, offers ‘Lutein’ gummies that claim to protect eyes from the harmful blue light emitted by screens.

“Lutein is a pigment found in Marigold that is responsible for giving it an orange colour and is also present in our eyes, and helps prevent damage and ensures they don’t dry up. Taking this supplement helps a consumer reduce strain she has to bear due to increased screen time,” Nihaal Mariwala, founder and CEO of Setu, told ThePrint.

Mariwala also highlighted that his company has seen sales figures of the gummy supplements go up from zero in March 2020 to 1,800 units a month.

Preeti Vasudevan, ambassador of efficacy at Bodywise, an online clinic for women, says they’ve found sustained consumer compliance among their base. Furthermore, they are also planning to expand their line in the next few months to cover the nutraceutical needs of women suffering from urinary tract infections (UTIs), polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
and premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

“Each formulation is specifically designed for the needs of women and the root causes of issues like slow metabolism and digestion, UTI, PCOS, PMS that they face,” Vasudevan told ThePrint.

Even consumers of these gummy supplements have reported satisfying, if not entirely positive, results with these products.

Aadil Poonawala, head of content at Hello, a Mumbai-based ad agency used the Lutein gummy offered by Setu for more than seven months.

While he said he could not quantify the result, the strain on his eyes definitely reduced. “Due to the pandemic I was spending more than eight hours in front of the screen every day, which causes the eyes to dry up. After taking the supplement, the strain was definitely reduced,” Poonawala told ThePrint.

For Nadeesh Bhambi, a content creator who runs his own YouTube channel, hair health gummies from Man Matters have worked as an effective placebo. “I started taking the gummies just over a month ago, and they definitely reduce my stress of losing my hair, which in itself prevents the loss of hair.”

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Are gummies effective? 

According to health experts, gummies can be a good way of attaining the required nutrition levels. However, they also caution against excessive usage.

“Eating vitamins is a good thing, but as dangerous is the deficiency of vitamins, excessive vitamin consumption is worse, which is called hypervitaminosis. Lots of people have hair, liver, lung, kidney damage because of excessive biotin in the body. So I advise gummies only if you don’t eat healthy on a daily basis,” Dr Deepali Bhardwaj, a New Delhi-based dermatologist, told ThePrint.

A gummy that experts hailed is the apple cider vinegar one, which helps balance the pH level of the body. Since the vinegar itself is a foul-smelling, bad-tasting drink, the gummy becomes a much more palatable alternative.

Dr Bhardwaj added that while gummies are a good option for children, she won’t necessarily recommend them for adults for skin and hair issues. “Unless and until someone is unable to orally take a tablet, I don’t suggest these supplements, because the bioavailability absorption is lesser than routine tablets.”

Bioavailability refers to the extent and rate at which drugs or supplements are circulated in the body.

According to Mumbai-based nutritionist Rhea Dhillon, gummies can also help meet dietary allowances of nutrients — partially for Vitamin A and calcium, and fully for Vitamins C and D.

But she too expressed concerns about absorption levels.

“Only 30 per cent of the nutrients you eat are absorbed from the diet, you don’t know the absorption levels with the gummies, plus these gummies aren’t any different from already existing supplements in the market. One must remember to have them as an adjunct to an already balanced diet,” she noted.

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