Are Personalized Vitamin Subscriptions Actually Worth It?

More and more consumers are seeking a personalized approach to nutrition — and for good reason. Whether you want to get leaner, build muscle, or enjoy better health, it's important to eat for your goals. There's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all diet, suggests a 2020 study published in Nature Medicine (via Europe PMC). Individual factors, such as genetics, lifestyle, and gut microbiota, determine how we respond to food. Simply put, two people can eat the same foods and have different results in terms of health, weight loss, or muscle growth.

Considering these facts, it's no surprise that personalized vitamin subscriptions are growing in popularity. Viome, Nourish, Gainful, and HUM Nutrition all offer custom vitamin blends designed to meet each person's needs. Some brands also provide access to dietitians, nutrition apps, and health reports. All you need to do is to take an online quiz to assess your diet and nutritional status. Few companies use lab tests to determine which nutrients you may be lacking.

The research on dietary supplements is conflicting, though. First of all, these products are not subject to the same regulations as prescription drugs. Manufacturers don't have to prove their safety or efficacy before putting them on the market, explains the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Second, most supplements are a waste of money, says the American Council on Exercise. On top of that, some may contain questionable ingredients or cause toxicity when used in high doses. So, are personalized vitamin subscriptions worth it? 

The truth about personalized vitamin subscriptions

Today's hectic lifestyle makes it difficult to cook balanced meals and track your nutrient intake. About three-quarters of Americans are not getting enough fruits and more than 80% don't eat enough vegetables, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. The same source reports that most children and adults are deficient in vitamin D, vitamin E, magnesium, and other key nutrients, which may put them at risk for disease. Multivitamin supplements are designed to fill nutritional gaps, but do they really work? 

These products may help to some extent, but their safety and effectiveness are subject to debate (per Nutrients). Moreover, there's not enough evidence that dietary supplements can prevent disease or improve overall health. "Other nutrition recommendations have much stronger evidence of benefits — eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and reducing the amount of saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, and sugar you eat," says Dr. Larry D. Appel (via Johns Hopkins Medicine).

Personalized vitamins allow for a more targeted approach than generic supplements, but they're not necessarily safer or more effective, cardiologist Erin D. Michos told Refinery29. Plus, you may not need them in the first place. "Additionally, if a nutrition gap is discovered, these companies are only recommending their supplements and not food solutions that could accomplish the same goal," explains dietitian Lauren Manaker (via Refiney29). While Manaker agrees that supplements may benefit those with nutrient deficiencies, it's hard to tell which vitamins or minerals you really need based on an online quiz.