Maybe it’s stress making your hair a little wispy, or hard-to-remove gel manicures shredding your nails. Or perhaps it’s that pizzatarian diet — too many late nights at work means you’re not eating your best. Whatever the reason, your nails are weak and peely, and your hair is looking like the before picture in a conditioner ad.
And there, calling out to you from the packed shelves of the drug store, is a supplement containing biotin, a B vitamin that, according to the bottle, “Supports Healthy Hair, Skin & Nails!” Perfect, you think. Until you read the label’s disclaimer: the FDA hasn’t evaluated that statement and that these pills don’t purport to treat any particular illness.
So should you plunk down your dollars in hopes that biotin will get you the glossy, voluminous hair and long, strong nails you’re hoping for? The answer is a resounding… maybe.
- What is biotin, anyway?
- So why are people taking biotin for hair and nail growth?
- What does the science say?
- How much biotin should you take?
- Are there any side effects to taking biotin?
- So, should you try it?
- 5 Ingredients You Don’t Want To See in your Multivitamin
- Olly Vitamins – The Company
- Multivitamins Review
- The Best Tips for Living Healthier & More Productive Life
- Yes, You Can Totally Overdose on Gummy Vitamins
What is biotin, anyway?
Biotin, also known as Vitamin B7, is a water-soluble nutrient found in foods. You can get your biggest hit of biotin in beef liver (not exactly a family favorite). But it can also be found in lesser amounts in egg yolks, sunflower seeds, nuts, and veggies like avocado, says Jason Ewoldt, RDN, LD, wellness dietician at the Mayo Clinic’s Healthy Living Program.
“Biotin is critical for the metabolism of fatty acids and carbs, but that’s not what people are using it for. They’re using it to strengthen brittle nails and for thinning hair,” he says.
So why are people taking biotin for hair and nail growth?
The thinking goes a little something like this: Because people who are deficient in biotin have certain symptoms — including facial rashes, pink eye, and yes, thinning hair and brittle nails — upping your biotin intake may help.
But this logic isn’t super solid. There are tons of reasons you may have thinning hair, most of which have zero to do with a biotin deficiency. And true biotin deficiency is rare, says Ewoldt — pregnant or breastfeeding women are prone, as are people who abuse alcohol (vegans may also run low). Still, says Ewoldt, supplementing with biotin is a relatively easy, inexpensive thing to do, so people think, hey, why not?
And there is anecdotal evidence that it can help. “Many people have trouble getting enough biotin via diet and should supplement, especially those with thinning hair or brittle nails,” says Arielle Levitan, M.D., an internal medicine physician in Highland Park, IL, and co-founder of Vous Vitamin, a company that creates personalized multivitamins. “There is no reliable blood test so sometimes it is helpful to supplement.” Dr. Levitan also explains that how much biotin you need depends on the individual.
What does the science say?
Not a whole lot. “For hair health, there is really no evidence at all that it strengthens hair and promotes it to grow,” says Ewoldt.
For healthy nails, there’s a bit more evidence, he says. “In those studies, they supplement with a small amount of biotin per day, and there was a small improvement in nail thickness.” But these weren’t large studies, and as in all nutrition research (where people aren’t only eating giant bricks of biotin), “it’s hard to pin the effects down to this one nutrient,” says Ewoldt.
How much biotin should you take?
There is no recommended daily allowance, but an adequate amount of biotin is thought to be 30 mcg a day. The National Institutes of Health has not established how much is too much, but it doesn’t seem to be toxic even in oral doses as high as 200,000 mcg a day.
Are there any side effects to taking biotin?
“Taking too much biotin can have negative effects,” says Dr. Levitan. It can skew the results of certain blood tests, for one, leading to misdiagnoses. “It can also interfere with the absorption of other B vitamins which are essential to other important aspects of health,” she adds. That’s why she recommends those with thinning hair don’t supplement with more than 2500 mcgs a day.
So, should you try it?
The greatest risk to taking biotin supplements seems to be that you’ll pee out what your body can’t use and your hair and nails will look the same. But if you want give it a go, make sure you get a brand that, well, at least contains biotin. Various studies have found that vitamins and herbal supplements don’t contain the amounts of key ingredients that they claim to (gummies were found to be especially lacking). “This is a largely unregulated industry,” says Dr. Levitan.
So look for brands that use third-party testing — the label usually says NSFor USP on it, indicating that independent labs have verified that the product contains what it says it does. “That way, even if it does nothing, at least you’re buying what you’re expecting,” says Ewoldt. Meanwhile, the retail chain CVS announced in May that they’re only selling supplements that have been third-party tested.
Even better, talk to your doctor about why your hair and nails may be weak; it could be an underlying medical condition, and other nutrients, such as iron, Vitamin D3 and vitamin C, which helps you absorb iron, can affect your hair and nails, says Dr. Levitan. “I would look at someone’s diet as a whole,” says Ewoldt. If they’re not getting enough of any essential nutrient, “that’s where supplementing can be a benefit,” he says.
Stephanie Dolgoff Deputy director, Health Newsroom, Hearst Lifestyle Group Stephanie, an award-winning journalist and New York Times bestselling author, has written and edited about health, fitness, and wellness for such publications as Good Housekeeping, Self, Glamour, Real Simple, Parenting, Cosmo and more.
5 Ingredients You Don’t Want To See in your Multivitamin
You take a multivitamin as an insurance policy to make sure you are getting all of the essential vitamins and minerals you need to thrive. But, what if the product you are choosing is actually blocking nutrients, or may even be dangerous for certain individuals.
Here are 5 label losers to steer clear of, and a list of just a few of the supplement brands we found formulated with these do not want ingredients.
LABEL LOSER #1: Iron
FORMULATED WITH THIS FOE: Ritual Multivitamin, Optimum Nutrition Opti-Women, Kirkland Daily Multi
Iron is a vital mineral your body needs to function normally. However, the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements has indicated that too much iron can cause serious health complications. Because of this, you may want to take an iron-free multivitamin to avoid iron overload, a medical condition that causes excess iron to be stored in vital organs such as the liver and heart. Too much iron may be toxic—and even fatal. In general, iron supplementation is not recommended for adult males and postmenopausal women. If you are a pre-menopausal woman, an athlete that works out for more than 6 hours a week, or a strict vegan/vegetarian you may want to consider iron supplementation…HOWEVER…!
When you see this nutrient listed on your supplement facts – WATCH OUT! You should know that iron competes with ten (10) other micronutrients – making multivitamins formulated with iron highly susceptible to poor absorption rates. (Learn more about micronutrient competition here)
If you choose to take iron, take a high quality multivitamin WITHOUT iron (such as nutreince) and a stand-alone iron supplement, at a separate time of day, at least 4 hours away from your multi.
LABEL LOSER #2: Copper
FORMULATED WITH THIS FOE: One-a-day women’s, Centrum, Optimum Nutrition Opti-Women, Alive Liquid Multivitamin, Mytrition, Kirkland Daily Multi
Taking a multivitamin with copper is generally not recommended because too much copper in the body can hinder your body’s ability to destroy the proteins that form the plaques found in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients. Many Alzheimer’s patients have been found to have elevated levels of copper, and in studies, it was determined that many of those affected took multivitamins with copper.
Based on this research The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) published a statement calling for the FDA to require multivitamin manufacturers to reformulate many of the most trusted multivitamins on the market without copper or iron. Neal Barnard, M.D., president of the Physicians Committee, stated in his letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, M.D. “Given that nearly half of Americans develop Alzheimer’s disease by age 85, we need to urge consumers to err on the side of caution…Research on the links between metals and brain damage is ongoing. Even so, the evidence that excess iron and copper contribute to brain deterioration has reached the point where we have to take it seriously.”
Additionally, pregnant woman should avoid copper in multivitamins because copper levels can nearly double during pregnancy making toxicity a concern. Cramps, abdominal pain, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, and liver damage are all common when taking supplements that include copper.
LABEL LOSER #3: Sugar (in any form)
FORMULATED WITH THIS FOE: Olly Multivitamins, Smarty Pants Gummies, Vitafusion
Even if the sugar is organic and in the form of cane sugar it has no place in a multivitamin. This is because while sugar’s sweet flavor may be appetizing, its depletion of calcium, magnesium, chromium, and copper is not, especially when you consider the negative side effects of becoming deficient in these essential minerals. And vitamin C is also negatively affected by sugar; because of similar chemical structures, vitamin C and glucose (a type of sugar) compete for entry into your cells. Even slightly elevated blood sugar levels can block vitamin C from getting in and can cause a weakened immune system.
Why would you add an ingredient that hinders the absorption of 5 other micronutrients into a multi? It’s simply not smart. Additionally, sugar is more addictive than cocaine. Popping sugar-laden gummies could trigger your cravings cycle and send you down a slippery slope!
LABEL LOSER #4: Folate or folic acid for vitamin B9
Research published in the American Journal of Epidemiology shows that more than 34% of the US population may have a genetic enzyme defect, known as MTHFR mutation, that makes it difficult for them to convert folic acid and even folate into the biologically active form of folate known as 5-MTHF, and new estimates suggest that 70% or more of the population may be affected. (Test to see if you have this genetic mutation HERE)
For the large number of individuals who have this mutation, supplementing with a multivitamin that contains folic acid can be extremely dangerous as the folic acid can cause a build-up in the body leading to toxicity. In fact, some studies have found that folic acid supplements increased cancer risk.
Making matters even worse, individuals with the MTHFR mutation may be susceptible to elevated homocysteine levels, due to a folate deficiency, and elevated homocysteine levels have been associated with heart disease, birth defects, and inflammation. Whether you have the MTHFR mutation or not, based on current research we recommend avoiding folic acid and taking a multivitamin that contains 5-MTHF – the biologically active, methylated form of folate to avoid health risks. (nutreince uses the Quatrefolic brand of 5-MTHF)
LABEL LOSER #5: Synthetic vitamin E (dl-alpha-tocopherol)
FORMULATED WITH THIS FOE: Nature’s Made Multivitamins, Centrum Adults, One-a-day, Kirkland Daily Multi
There are two forms of vitamin E – a natural source vitamin E (d-alpha-tocopherol) typically derived from vegetable oils and a synthetic vitamin E (dl-alpha-tocopherol) typically derived from petroleum products. The bioavailability is approximately 2:1 for natural-source vitamin E over synthetic vitamin E. To compensate for the lower retention of synthetic vitamin E, a person or animal would have to ingest twice the amount of synthetic vitamin E (by weight) to match the bioavailability of the natural form.
HOWEVER, the problem with synthetic vitamin E goes beyond bioavailability, studies show that there is a real danger of negative health consequences when products contain the synthetic petrochemically-derived form of dl-alpha tocopherol. Research show that high doses—400 IU’s a day or more—of synthetic vitamin E (dl-alpha tocopherol) daily – may increase your risk of prostate cancer by 17 percent! Make sure your supplement does not contain any dl – synthetic vitamin E.
WOW! CRAZY RIGHT?
We could go on and on about other ingredients to avoid and which forms you do not want to see on the label of your multivitamin, but instead we want to make it easy for you to choose a multi that will enhance your health. You shouldn’t have to get a chemistry degree in order to identify a well-formulated multivitamin!
That’s why we did the work for you and created nutreince – a safe and effective multivitamin that delivers superior absorbency with beneficial quantities and forms of the essential vitamins and minerals you need to elevate your health. Nutreince is also completely different from any other multivitamin you have ever taken for another reason – it’s the first and only multivitamin formulated using Anti-Competition Technology™ – a patented technology that separates the micronutrients that compete for absorption sites into completely different AM and PM formulas, which finally allows your body to receive the full benefits of each micronutrient.
If your multivitamin contains any of the 5 ingredients we covered in this article or if you just finally want to experience the health benefits that can come from using a multi formulated using the most advanced science currently available on the body’s ability to absorb essential micronutrients we invite you to try nutreince – a modern multivitamin formulated for the modern world.
We are busy people leading busy lives, and it seems we have less and less time to take care of ourselves and what’s important. We need proper nutrition, exercise, sleep, and healthful living, but our work-life balance scale is more often than not tipping in the wrong direction.
Too much work, stress, and running to keep pace with daily life is taking its toll on our health and wellness.
To that end, subscriptions are popping up like never before. From groceries and locally-grown organic produce to ready-to-cook meals, and even all you need for your pet, chances are good there’s a subscription awaiting.
You can sign up for pretty much anything to be delivered to your door these days. Enter Olly Multivitamins. They are no exception.
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You can now sign up for an Olly vitamins subscription (though you can pick them up in a brick and mortar store or online too.
If you don’t like subscriptions), making getting your daily dose of nutrients and vitamins as easy as picking up the morning paper. But how do they stack up? Read on to find out.
Olly Vitamins – The Company
Created by Eric Ryan, the co-founder of Method, the environmentally friendly personal care and household cleaning product company, Olly is the latest wave to hit the supplement market, one that hit over three billion last year. And the wave has taken that market by storm.
Olly Vitamins is geared toward millennials and specializes in wellness products for better living. They sell a wide variety of products in their line, from plant-based protein powder to probiotics, smoothies, energy boosters, and of course, multivitamins.
Each multivitamin created with a purpose—either for girls, women, kids, and men—or for an issue, like stress, energy, skin care, and sleep. They’re all gummy vitamins, so there’s no choosing caplets or tablets.
The success of Olly is undeniable. In a market already saturated, they went from brand new to turning a profit in a year.
They focus on the retail channel and brick and mortar stores, like Walgreens, Walmart, CVS, and Target, who often offer a coupon, but are available online as well from Amazon and their site.
And if you like the convenience of delivery, you can just subscribe, and they’ll show up at your door.
You can mix and match the types and formulas you want, so you’re not stuck with a bottle or more of a certain kind you’ll never use. And you can cancel at any time.
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You can choose from nine different types of multivitamins from Olly. While some are for enhancing your wellbeing, like providing better energy or sleep (called wellness boosts), others are for each member of the family.
Restful Sleep is made to do just that. It contains Melatonin and botanicals like chamomile to calm your mind and body and ease you into a more restful night of sleep.
Endless Energy adds a dose of caffeine (via green tea) to the blend of B vitamins and L-theanine (an amino acid that boosts your focus and mental acuity).
There’s also a probiotic for gut and belly health, and a Vibrant skin supplement to keep your skin clear and glowing. Undeniable Beauty includes biotin for healthier skin, nails, and hair, as well as borage oil and vitamin C.
The Olly multivitamin for women is called the “Perfect” Women’s. It’s formulated for an active lifestyle, intended to boost energy and keep you going throughout your busy day.
It not only contains the usual suspects when it comes to a multivitamins B12 and B6, D3, and E but also Biotin and Folic Acid.
It comes in a flavor called blissful berry, derived from raspberries, blueberry acai, and blackberries.
There’s also a superfoods version, which includes in addition to the vitamins, a host of antioxidant phytonutrients, such as tamarind and papaya. The superfoods version is elderberry flavored.
The Prenatal come in a citrus flavor, which is a blend of Meyer lemon, clementines, and ruby red grapefruits. They boast Niacin and Folic Acid, as well as vitamin D3, C, B12, and B6.
For men, they offer two choices, a superfoods version, and the Olly men’s multivitamin, also labeled as “Perfect.”
As you can guess from the name, the superfood version has your daily dose of vitamins and minerals, plus the added benefits of Olly superfoods, specifically acai, watercress, elderberry, beet, grape, pomegranate, papaya, wheatgrass, and tamarind.
The Perfect Men’s Multivitamin contains 100% of the daily recommended doses of vitamins A and E, 125% of vitamin C and vitamin D, and 250% of vitamins B12 and B6.
Growing girls, whether tweens or teens, have it’s own specific dietary and nutritional needs, given the rapid growth, not to mention hormones.
The multis for girls, in a berry melon flavor, in addition to a combination of 15 minerals and vitamins.
Contain Biotin for nail and hair health, B vitamins for energy and cell support, and antioxidant vitamins E, C, and A to keep hair and skin healthy.
The lineup wouldn’t be complete with a complete multi formulated for children.
With the intention of making all that good stuff we need, which comes in tastes only grownups like, like broccoli and kale, with flavor kids love. Namely, sweet: berry punch.
Blended with all the essentials Bs, plus vitamins D, C, A, E, and Zinc.
They also contain probiotics for gut health and an immune system boost.
Reviews of Olly multivitamins are predominantly positive. Customers report having increased energy and more restful sleep as a result of a daily regimen of Olly.
And with an average score of four stars, there are decidedly more people who give it 5 stars than those who give it one or two.
As can be expected when anything has a flavor, the reviews mixed on that front. Some reviewers love the taste and others say it tastes “like a multivitamin.”
I think that probably makes a bit of sense, but I can see the point. If you prefer a gummy and are going for a burst of berry, orange, or the like, a lot of people would prefer to find nary a hint or trace of that obvious vitamin bit.
As far as an Olly beauty vitamins review tally, the consensus is overwhelmingly positive. Restful Sleep, Undeniably Beauty, and Women’s Multi, separately and in combination top the list for the most preferred and highest level of reported customer satisfaction.
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Since side effects are uncommon with any multivitamin are very rare, besides taste, negative reviews regarding side effects couldn’t be found in our research.
A common side effect in multivitamins, in general, is a stomach ache, but that’s usually due to ingesting them on an empty stomach and is rarely found with a gummy form.
Since vitamins are dispelled naturally, taking a higher dose should have no adverse effects or an upset stomach.
More people than ever are taking vitamins, and there’s no indication that that’s going to let up anytime soon.
In a market that might seem to be saturated, Olly is reinventing the time-tested supplements that we’ve come to rely on for everything from a common cold to a better night’s sleep.
One of the things they have in their favor is smart blending. They’re also natural.
Times have changed, and our needs have changed with them, so focusing their combinations in a way that requires us to think less (for example, take one for sleep, energy, or beauty) is more closely suited to the needs we have in our modern lives.
The flavors are creative (and good), and the gummy form makes it easy (and delicious) to take your daily vitamins.
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Yes, You Can Totally Overdose on Gummy Vitamins
As a kid, you might have munched on Flintstone vitamins or some other chalky, fruit-flavored version of a multivitamin. Fast forward to today, and gummy vitamins of all sorts are being hawked to adults. They might look and taste like fruity candy, but eating too many can have some negative side effects, including overdosing on certain vitamins.
“Vitamins should be treated more as a medicine than a candy,” says Melissa Majumdar, MS, RD, senior bariatric dietician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “You should refer to the dosing on the bottle or what is directed from your healthcare professional.”
That’s because too much of certain vitamins can really do some damage in your body. “Fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, and E are stored in fat cells and, if taken in excess, can be problematic,” says Majumdar. Here’s a rundown of some vitamins and minerals you can overdose on and what their potential side effects are:
- Vitamin A: “Excess vitamin A can lead to increased intracranial pressure (pseudotumor cerebri), dizziness, nausea, headaches, skin irritation, pain in joints and bones, coma, and even death,” Majumdar says. “And in pregnant women, birth defects.”
- Vitamin D: “Too much vitamin D can lead to weight loss, polyuria, and heart arrhythmias. More seriously, it can also raise blood levels of calcium which leads to vascular and tissue calcification, with subsequent damage to the heart, blood vessels, and kidneys,” she cautions.
- Vitamin E: “Vitamin E in high doses can cause hemorrhage from interrupting blood clotting,” says Majumdar.
- Vitamin B: Majumdar notes that “the B vitamins can leave a bad aftertaste and even lead to nausea and vomiting.”
- Iron: “Excess iron can cause gastric upset, constipation, nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, and faintness,” she says.
A few other things to consider when taking gummy vitamins:
1. The sugar content can be pretty high. There’s a reason they taste so good, and the reason is sugar. “Generally, a regular dose of gummy vitamins has four to five grams of sugar, about the amount in one teaspoon of sugar,” says Majumdar. “You’d probably think twice about adding an extra teaspoon of sugar to your coffee, so shouldn’t vitamins be the same?”
2. Sugar-free ones may upset your stomach. “‘Gummy tummy’ is a risk of taking too many gummy vitamins, which can be attributed to the sugar substitute in gummy vitamins,” says Majumdar. Sugar alcohols like xylitol, sorbitol, and mannitol can all cause diarrhea.
3. They can cause vitamin deficiencies. Vitamins and minerals need to be taken in a balanced amount because an excess of one nutrient can also cause a deficiency of another. “For example, some gummies contain zinc and not copper (some contain neither) or zinc and not iron; too much zinc can interfere with iron and copper absorption. When taking any zinc supplement, copper should be taken alongside in a ratio of one milligram copper for every 8-15 mg zinc,” says Majumdar.
4. They may not contain enough vitamins and minerals. Gummy vitamins are not appropriate for everyone. As Majumdar points out, “Gummy vitamins are rarely complete vitamins and lack iron, copper, zinc, vitamin B1, and selenium, and can be low in vitamin A.” So talk with your doctor about your specific vitamin and mineral needs to find the best multivitamin for you.
Do you take gummy vitamins? Let us know your thoughts @BritandCo.
(Photo via Getty)