Are Personalized Vitamins Worth It? Experts Say Convenience Comes With A Catch
Remember middle school mornings when you’d scramble to shower, get dressed, eat a well-balanced breakfast (re: burnt Pop-Tarts), and somehow manage to be on time? Seconds before your fingers reached the doorknob, did mom or dad holler at you to take your vitamins? I can’t count on just one hand how many times this exact scenario went down in my house, but I can if you ask how many times I actually listened. Taking vitamins just never felt mandatory to me, and maybe that’s because they didn’t come in a prescription bottle. Instead, maybe personalized vitamins are worth taking as opposed to the over-the-counter bottles, because while it’s true your body feels its best when all the essential vitamins and nutrients are accounted for, just because my mom might be low on vitamin D, that doesn’t necessarily mean I am, too. And if that's the case, do we really need to pop pills from a communal bottle? I think not.
Heartbreaking as it may be, there comes a time in every adult's life when you have to take your very last Flinstones vitamin and move on to pills with far less sugar content and way more nutrient-dense milligrams. It’s tragic, I know, but taking your vitamins doesn’t have to feel like a chore in comparison. In fact, consider personalized vitamins like a party for one: Only you are invited, and only your body gets to benefit from the unique experience. Plus, these sorts of supplement brands want to make their products that much more appealing than bland, store-bought bottles, so they’re usually packaged in fun colors. Set the packet next to your morning cereal bowl, and it’ll feel like a party favor. Trust me, it’s great.
So now that I’ve piqued your interest, you’re probably wondering how personalized vitamins work — so glad you asked.
The idea behind personalized vitamins is actually pretty brilliant because, if you think about it, the idea that any random bottle of multivitamins you pick up at the drugstore is going to be exactly what you, plus hundreds of strangers need to better their bodies, is not only outdated, it’s just anatomically incorrect. What my body needs to thrive, and what your body needs to thrive, are likely two completely different formulas. But even knowing that, it can be really difficult to decipher what’s what when stores shelve hundreds of competing brands that all look the same. So when these minor-yet-major details finally got the best of a man named Craig Elbert, that’s when vitamin subscription box Care/Of was born.
In an exclusive interview with Elite Daily, Elbert says that, unlike your local drugstore’s collage of brand names and brightly colored tablets, Care/Of’s mission is pretty straightforward: to offer a “simple, delightful experience” that’s tailored to your individual needs, and that brings “quality and transparency into the vitamin space." In other words, the brand's goal is to find out what you need and deliver it. It’s really that simple.
“We’re firm believers that everyone is unique,” Elbert tells Elite Daily. “We’re also very transparent about all of our products, from the sourcing to production to testing. Showing our members the quality of our product is a huge priority for us, which can be hard to find in other over-the-counter vitamins.”
This all sounds awesome in theory, right? Here’s how it works: When you log on to Care/Of’s website, you’re going to be asked a series of questions based on your health goals, needs, diet, and lifestyle, so that experts are able to identify “the gaps that vitamins and supplements can help to fill.” So pretty much the type of evaluation your doctor would do, too, right? From there, the information you’ve submitted is reviewed under an algorithm that "incorporates a body of peer-reviewed research, a wide base of traditional medicine, and input from our scientific advisory board," Elbert says. Translation: The vitamins you’re being prescribed aren’t chosen at random; there’s science to back up every pill Care/Of suggests you start popping.
Personalized vitamins almost sound too good to be true, and according to some experts, they just might be.
Here’s where this fantasy of personalized vitamins turns into a bit of a flop: It’s not that companies like Care/Of, Vitamin Packs, and VitaMe are doling out supplement duds; these brands really are dedicating themselves to providing you with vitamins they feel, based on their research, your body needs. Think of it this way: When Cinderella lost her fancy dress and horse-drawn carriage at the stroke of midnight, she was still Cinderella, but something was missing. And the something that’s missing from these personalized vitamin services is your doctor’s stamp of approval.
Here's another way to think about it: If you’re filling out a survey that’s going to yield results based on your goals, then that means the vitamins you’re prescribed are going to be geared toward something you want, rather than something you biologically need. Dr. Luke Bucci, vice president of research and development at Ritual, tells Elite Daily this seemingly minor detail might not be one to overlook. In fact, depending on what you’re looking to get out of taking your vitamins, Dr. Darria Long Gillespie adds you might be better off making an appointment with your doctor instead, so they can run proper tests and potentially offer a more realistic solution.
"If someone is wondering if her blood levels are low and if she needs a vitamin or mineral, the best way to do that is by having her doctor run blood tests," Dr. Long Gillespie tells Elite Daily. "Without those, you have no idea whether you’re deficient or not. The reason that we have to be careful is that studies have shown that taking supplements in the absence of any actual deficiency can — at best — yield no benefit at all."
To personalize or not to personalize is the question, but if supplements aren’t something you’re about, you can always eat your nutrients, instead.
Of course, when it comes to supplemental vitamins, HUM Nutrition’s registered dietitian nutritionist, Alexandra Caspero, MA, RD, tells Elite Daily the smartest route is always going to be one that's tailored to your specific needs. However, according to Grace Derocha, registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator, and certified health coach at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, your goal should really be to simply get these vitamins and nutrients into your body via the foods you eat.
"There are certainly circumstances that warrant a customized supplement regimen, like a restrictive diet, food allergies and sensitivities, or health conditions that impact the body’s absorption of certain vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients," Derocha tells Elite Daily. However, she says, if this isn't the case for your body, then you might want to try maintaining a healthy, balanced diet full of fruits and veggies, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats to get all the vitamins and nutrients you need for optimal wellness.
Supplements can be great, but they aren't for everyone, no matter how cool personalized vitamin subscriptions might be. Talk to your doctor to see which method is right for you.