Environmental Nutrition: Benefits of pricey personalized vitamins are questionable
The idea of having vitamin supplements formulated to meet your specific nutrient needs is appealing. Are custom supplements truly beneficial and are they worth the price, which tends to be greater than you might find at the local drugstore or health food store?
Personalized vitamin companies
Several online companies, including Persona Nutrition, Care/Of, HUM Nutrition, Rootine, VitaMe, Ritual, Nourished, Nurish, Goop, Baze, Zenamins, Vous Vitamins, Vitally, and Vitl, promise to tailor supplements to your specific health needs, but they differ greatly in how they determine your individual needs and the supplements they offer to meet those needs. At least two companies are gender specific. Ritual provides supplements for women only and Roman is for men only. The supplements provided by these companies include vitamins, minerals, herbal blends, probiotics, omega-3s, protein powders, collagen and electrolytes.
Determining individual nutrient needs
To determine which supplements are right for you, most companies offer an online quiz that asks questions about your medical history and your current health status. The quick quizzes typically ask about everything from whether or not you practice intermittent fasting to whether you work out on a regular basis, as well as questions about your sleep, energy level and digestive health. Once you’ve answered the questions, your specific recommendations are generated within seconds.
At least one company gives you the option of choosing your own supplements or taking a quiz to determine your needs. The price for a month’s supply, which can be a single pill or a daily packet of pills, can range anywhere from about $30 to $100, but some companies offer a deep discount on your first order. You can order a one-month supply or set up a subscription, where your specific supplement recommendations are delivered monthly.
While a couple of the personalized supplement companies offer the support of a health care professional, including a registered dietitian, most do not. DNA tests are also offered by a couple of the companies for about $150 to $200 to “further personalize” recommendations, but if you’ve already had DNA analysis done, say for a company like 23andMe, you can upload that information instead. However, there is no research to show that a DNA test provides a reliable basis for customizing dietary supplements.
The bottom line
There’s no question that your medical history and family background contribute to your nutrient needs, but the study of how your DNA affects those needs — called nutrigenomics — is still in its infancy. There is no evidence to date that personalized vitamins offer a health advantage.
In addition, it’s important to keep in mind that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t closely monitor or regulate personalized vitamin companies, but neither do they regulate over-the-counter supplements, unless a safety issue arises. Then the FDA has the authority to issue a recall.
The best bet? Consult with a registered dietitian and check with your health care provider before taking any of these supplements, especially if you’re currently taking medications.
(Environmental Nutrition is the award-winning independent newsletter written by nutrition experts dedicated to providing readers up-to-date, accurate information about health and nutrition in clear, concise English. For more information, visit www.environmentalnutrition.com.)
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