Vitamin supplements are a common way to top up your personal nutrition. According to the most recent Food Consumption Survey issued by the RIVM, as many as 43 per cent of Dutch adults take a vitamin supplement alongside their diet. However, this does not mean that a supplement is a substitute for food. Supplements such as tablets, drops or gummies do contain vitamins and minerals, but lack fibre and bioactive substances. Taking supplements is a practical way of ensuring that you get enough of all the vitamins and minerals you need.
A healthy diet should ensure that we get sufficient vitamins. According to the Voedingscentrum (Dutch Nutrition Centre), you eat healthily when you vary your food and use the ‘Schijf van Vijf‘ as your guideline. This means consuming plenty of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, beans, oil and nuts. Is also includes avoiding excessive dairy, eating less meat and only enjoying sweets or soft drinks on occasion. While you theoretically should consume sufficient vitamins and minerals this way, in practice it is unfortunately not that simple. The same Food Consumption Survey shows that the Dutch eat too few vegetables.
There are also specific groups that are particularly prone to deficiencies. Vegans, pregnant women, children, people who do not get outdoors often enough, cover their skin, have dark or tinted skin and the elderly generally do not get enough vitamins in their diet. People with these characteristics are particularly at risk of vitamin D, B12, K or folic acid deficiency. For this reason, specific supplementation recommendations have been established for these groups. When you fall outside these groups, however, a supplement can also be beneficial. Provided you stick to the recommended amount mentioned on the packaging, of course.
What are vitamins?
You can find them in food, drinks and supplements: vitamins. But what exactly are vitamins, and what do you need them for? Your body uses vitamins to grow, develop and keep you healthy. They are micronutrients and, unlike macronutrients, do not directly provide your body with energy. Vitamins do, however, enable you to draw energy from macronutrients; they function as a catalyst. In this way they play a key role in the proper functioning of countless processes in your body.
Your body is capable of (partially) producing some vitamins on its own. These are the vitamins that are soluble in fat: vitamins A, D, E and K. Vitamin D is produced in the intestines, and your skin creates vitamin D when it comes into contact with sunlight. Provitamins (precursors of the vitamin) in your diet help these processes. For example, your body converts provitamin A (carotenoids) and provitamin D into vitamin A and D. There are also several vitamins that you cannot make or store yourself. These are the vitamins that are soluble in water. If you take in too much of these, you simply pass them out again. It is therefore essential to consume them regularly – preferably daily – through food or a supplement. Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B11, B12 and vitamin C are among these vitamins. Just because too much of these vitamins leaves your body through the urine does not mean that consuming too many vitamins is not harmful to your health. That is why Yummygums has highly precise dosages of vitamins, and why it is important to stick to the recommended dosage.
Did you know that Yummygums contain nearly every vitamin your body needs?
You can find them in food, drinks and supplements: vitamins.
Why should you take vitamins?
If we ate perfectly composed meals every day, there would be no need to take supplements. Ensuring that you incorporate all vitamins and minerals into your lifestyle every day is no easy feat, however. For most Dutch people this is not feasible: from figures collected by CBS and RIVM for the Leefstijlmonitor, it appears that only 28 per cent of the population meets the recommended daily intake of vegetables. 26 per cent of Dutch people achieve the desired two pieces of fruit a day, and a quarter of the population generally observe the recommendations issued by the Good Food Guidelines of the Health Council of the Netherlands. Although this only highlights a small portion of the research, it does show that most Dutch people find it difficult to get all the vitamins and minerals they need on a daily basis. Which nutrients you are missing exactly, and which adjustments you can make to ensure that you don’t develop a deficiency, varies greatly per individual. Fortunately, there are guidelines that apply to almost everyone. With this in mind, Yummygums has developed the multivitamin Multi Plus: a vitamin gummy that supports the daily vitamin requirements of both children and adults. With 17 balanced vitamins and minerals, Multi Plus is an easy (and delicious!) way to make sure you get enough micronutrients.
The absorption of vitamins
Another reason to consider vitamin supplements is their high absorption rate. This is because your body absorbs certain vitamins from food supplements better than vitamins from food. For example, the absorption of folic acid (vitamin B11) from food is about 30 to 50 percent lower than that from a supplement (Radar, 2019). In most cases, there is no difference between vitamins contained in food or taken from a supplement, except for vitamins D, B5, B6, B12 and folic acid. The supplement form of these vitamins is known to be considerably better absorbed. The reverse is true of vitamin E: the natural form is more easily absorbed by the body.
Another factor that plays a role in the absorption of vitamins is the content of the supplement. This differs per brand. More expensive is better’ does not apply to the quality of a supplement: a better gauge is the ratio of organic to inorganic compounds. These determine how well your body can absorb the vitamins and minerals. This is a technically complicated story, but a useful rule of thumb is: ‘the less is explained on the label about the composition, the less the quality usually is’ (Radar, 2019).
Pills, tablets, drops or gummies
There are several different forms of vitamin supplements. Pills can be swallowed, just like paracetamol, for example. An effervescent tablet can be dissolved in water and a chewable tablet can be chewed or crushed and stirred into yoghurt. Then there are drops or sprays, which you apply directly to the tongue. The tastiest option is a vitamin gummy: a delicious treat containing vitamins and minerals. You can also easily slice a gummy in half if, for example, you are worried that it might be too large for a young child to chew.
In addition to the way in which you take a supplement, the variants also differ in terms of ingredients. As the European Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (EFSA) has assessed the claims on supplement labels, you may assume that they are correct. All permitted claims are recorded in a database of the Dutch Inspection Board for the Public Promotion of Medicines and Dutch Inspection Board for the Promotion of Medicines. This council supervises public advertising for health products, including food supplements (Dutch Vitamin Information Bureau, 2019). The Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) is also concerned with the safety of food and health products (Dutch Nutrition Centre, 2019).
The vitamin gummy
Everyone has seen or used supplements in the form of pills or tablets, and how to use drops is also self-evident. But what exactly are gummies, what are they made of? Gummies are a soft kind of candy made of gelatine, pectin or starch. Gelatine is the term for proteins originating from the bones and cartilage of mainly mammals (often cattle or pigs). Pectin is found in the cell wall of apples and pears, for example. Starch is a carbohydrate found in potatoes and cereal products, among other products. The last two ingredients are completely vegetable-based and vegan. Yummygums are made with pectin and are therefore suitable for vegans and other plant-based diets. It is not surprising that gummies are becoming increasingly popular: you cannot taste that it is a supplement and it is indistinguishable from a candy. This means that you are less likely to forget to take a vitamin gummy, and never have to ask your children to take their daily vitamin boost more than once. If the candy is too big, it can easily be halved, as mentioned earlier.
Although a gummy tastes the same as a candy, unfortunately you cannot treat yourself to handfuls of them. Although it is important to take in enough vitamins and minerals, too high a dose can be harmful to health. That is why the Health Council of the Netherlands has drawn up a guideline: the recommended daily allowance (RDA). You can read more about the RDA under the heading ‘Recommended daily allowance (RDA)’.
In addition to the RDA, a maximum dose has been defined for each vitamin, or the acceptable upper limit. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has determined that if you take in this amount for a long time, it can lead to damage to your health (this does not always involve symptoms). The vitamins for which EFSA has determined an acceptable upper limit are vitamins A, D, E, niacin (vitamin B3), B6 and folic acid.
Acceptable upper limit – maximum daily dose (adults > 18 years)
|Vitamin A||3,000 micrograms|
|Vitamin D||100 micrograms|
|Vitamin E||300 milligrams|
|Niacin (Vitamin B3)||900 milligrams*|
|Vitamin B6||25 milligrams**|
|Folic acid||1,000 micrograms|
1 milligram (mg) is equivalent to 1,000 micrograms (mcg).
* This applies to nicotinamide, which is the form that occurs mainly in your food and in supplements. For nicotinic acid there is an acceptable upper limit of 10 milligrams per day.
Supplements in the Netherlands may not contain more than 21 milligrams of vitamin B6 from 1 October 2018.
An acceptable upper limit is determined based on one of the two levels below:
– The highest level of intake at which no adverse effects occur. This level is called NOAEL: No Observed Adverse Effect Level.
-The lowest level of intake at which adverse effects have been observed. This level is called LOAEL: Lowest Observed Adverse Effect Level.
The acceptable upper limit is then determined by means of an uncertainty factor. The uncertainty factor functions as a buffer, to keep the chance of harmful effects as small as possible. The acceptable upper limit is therefore still below the NOAEL or LOAEL. The figure below illustrates this. It also shows the relationship with the average requirement, recommended dietary allowance and adequate intake (Health Council of the Netherlands, 2003).
A health risk is only possible if you exceed the acceptable upper limit for a prolonged period. A single or short-term excess will almost never result in an immediate health problem (Dutch Nutrition Centre, 2019). If you are still wondering how much of each vitamin you may specifically have, what the safe upper limit is and which groups should closely monitor certain vitamins, you can visit this page. This website of the Vitamin Information Bureau uses the guidelines of the Dutch Health Council and provides additional explanations.
The bottles of Yummygums contain a safety cap so that young children do not have unlimited access to vitamin supplements.
There are 13 substances called “vitamins”. They can best be divided into two groups: fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins. The vitamins A, D, E and K (or: KADE, a handy mnemonic) are fat-soluble. These vitamins are mainly obtained from products that contain fat, such as spreads and preparation fats, fish, meat, nuts and milk (products). The water-soluble vitamins are a larger group. This group consists of vitamin C (ascorbic acid), B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B8 (biotin), B11 (folic acid) and B12 (cobalamin). These vitamins can be obtained from vegetables, fruit, grain products, nuts, legumes and dairy (products).
Some vitamins also fall into the category of ‘antioxidants‘. These are substances that help protect your cells and tissues from harmful substances. Provitamins A (beta-carotene), C and E are antioxidants. A provitamin is a compound like beta-carotene that can be converted to, in this case, vitamin A. Your body can only store the fat-soluble vitamins. The water-soluble vitamins are not stored, they leave your body through urine. However, this does not mean that you can consume them indefinitely without consequences: during the time a substance is in your body, it can set certain reactions in motion. For example, vitamin B6 is excreted, but taking too high a dose for too long can be harmful to your nervous system (Dutch Consumers’ Association, 2019).
Vitamins are not the only micronutrients. In addition to vitamins, there are also minerals: calcium, chromium, chloride, fluoride, phosphorus, iron, iodine, potassium, copper, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, sodium, selenium and zinc. To give you an idea of what a multivitamin (gummy) can contain, you can view the ingredients list of Yummygums Multi Plus.
Recommended daily allowance (RDA)
RDA stands for recommended daily allowance. In the Netherlands, the Health Council of the Netherlands determines the RDA of a nutrient, such as a vitamin or mineral. These recommendations are used as a benchmark for the quantity that healthy people require on a daily basis. The RDA for children, men and women is different, because the nutrient requirements for these groups are also different. To determine the RDA, we look at the number of processes in the body in which the nutrient is involved. This includes your metabolism, support of brain functions, releasing energy from food, etc. The RDA is a quantity that is sufficient for almost the entire population. Those who observe the RDA, in principle take in sufficient vitamins and minerals. Read more about the RDA or view the complete overview of the RDA for vitamins and minerals for different ages (Dutch Nutrition Centre, 2019).
Please note: only use vitamin supplements when you need them and stick to the recommended use. Read more about this under the heading ‘Medical advice’. If you have any questions, you can always contact the Consumentenbond via this link.
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