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Companies selling personalized vitamins claim they tailor their supplements to an individual’s specific health needs. However, taking supplements this way carries some risks.

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For example, the federal government do not closely regulate personalized vitamins. The companies may not deliver what they claim to provide, while the vitamins they recommend may not be safe.

Keep reading to learn about the health benefits and risks of personalized vitamins.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based.

Certain companies claim to sell personalized vitamins that they can tailor according to an individual’s particular health conditions, genetic makeup, or both.

They differ from traditional dietary supplements, which provide the same types and amounts of vitamins to anyone who takes them.

Numerous companies offer personalized vitamins in the United States, including:

Most of them selling personalized vitamins claim to base their customization on an online questionnaire that customers can complete within a few minutes. These surveys collect information on a person’s:

  • level of physical activity
  • medications
  • health concerns
  • intake of certain dietary staples, such as vegetables or food sources of calcium

Companies may also claim to base their vitamin customization on a person’s DNA test results. This testing comes from nutrigenomics, a scientific field that explores how someone’s nutrient intake, genetic makeup, and health interact. Such companies claim to use the test results to predict the risk of developing various diseases while recommending the intake of certain vitamins.

Studies on personalized vitamins are limited. There is little research to support their benefits, particularly in comparison to non-personalized options.

The U.S. government exercise limited oversight over companies selling personalized vitamins. An older Government Accountability Office (GAO) study found that these vitamins may not only fail to improve health, but the companies selling them may provide misleading or unreliable health information.

One of the main claims of these services is that they tailor supplements to an individual’s health needs. The GAO study investigated the accuracy of this claim by using fake profiles to investigate four companies offering this service. The authors took the online surveys and then submitted DNA samples for the tests.

Upon delivering the test results to the study’s authors, the websites urged the purchase of expensive personalized vitamins. However, the vitamins recommended for each of the fictitious profiles were the same rather than customized. This is especially concerning because the profiles came from the DNA samples of two individuals with differing lifestyles.

Additionally, the American Society of Nutrition (ASN) state that there is insufficient evidence to prove that taking multivitamins generally prevents chronic or long-term diseases. This is despite limited research suggesting they might help certain conditions.

The online surveys and quizzes that most personalized vitamin brands offer may not be accurate or interpreted correctly.

A person’s medical history and family background contribute to their nutrition needs. This makes the analysis of online surveys and results complex and unlikely to be definitive or comprehensive. For these reasons, an individual’s doctor is typically the most suitable professional to interpret these tests.

The ASN caution that taking vitamins may increase the likelihood of receiving more than the Tolerable Upper Intake (TUI) of some nutrients. This can lead to health risks.

For example, when people take a supplement containing folic acid, they may exceed the TUI if they eat foods fortified with the vitamin. High levels of folic acid may raise the risk of certain kinds of cancer, such as prostate cancer.

Problems from incorrect interpretation of DNA tests

When personalized vitamin brands offer DNA testing, they are usually looking for a person’s probability of gluten intolerance, caffeine metabolism, skin antioxidant capacity, and more. They may also be assessing the risk of certain conditions.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), no research indicates that DNA tests provide a safe basis for customizing dietary supplements.

The FTC state that it is frequently hard to draw definitive conclusions about health risks based on DNA tests. This is because someone’s likelihood of developing a certain condition often does not solely depend on their genes. Rather, it depends on multiple interactions between their genes and the food they consume, their lifestyle, and substances they have frequent exposure to, such as tobacco or sunlight.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warn that two problems may result from incorrectly interpreting DNA tests. The first is a positive result for a certain disease, which does not necessarily mean a person will develop the condition or that it will be severe.

The second issue involves a negative result for a certain disease. This may merely indicate that the test did not examine the particular genetic changes associated with the condition. Most DNA tests only look at a small number of genes.

As the GAO study concludes, a positive result may unduly alarm people and encourage them to take costly personalized vitamins to be healthy. Additionally, a negative result may give some individuals false assurance that they are healthy when they are actually ill.

Instead of taking personalized vitamins, the FDA advise getting annual checkups and screenings for people looking to diagnose potential diseases and take preventive measures.

The FTC suggest a good starting point is a doctor’s exam that includes conventional lab tests, such as blood chemistry and a cholesterol profile. If the tests show abnormalities, a doctor can make dietary and other lifestyle recommendations.

If a person is interested in following a diet that provides optimal nutrition, a registered dietitian can help. This health specialist can develop a detailed eating plan that considers a person’s diagnosed health conditions and dietary preferences.

If people believe they are deficient in certain nutrients, they should undergo blood work assessments from a doctor. Healthcare professionals rely on these tests to assess certain deficiencies, for example, vitamin B12 and vitamin D deficiencies.

Working with qualified health professionals, such as dietitians, can help determine whether an individual’s diet lacks certain nutrients and if supplementation is appropriate.

Companies selling personalized vitamins may claim to offer bespoke vitamins that cater to an individual’s health needs. However, they do not always live up to this promise. These supplements may also include unsafe amounts of certain vitamins that can negatively affect health.

A better alternative than investing in customized vitamins is to request a doctor’s exam and work with healthcare professionals to receive dietary and lifestyle recommendations.