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What's The Deal With Those Care/Of Personalized Vitamins?

care/of vitamins

Netflix populates your queue with movies and TV shows you’ll likely love, Spotify customizes playlists for your ears only, and now, even vitamins are personally tailored.

At least that’s the claim of new, trendy vitamin packs from Care/Of, which promise to “recommend the right vitamins and supplements” for you, based on a few quick questions.

Sounds pretty great, TBH—vitamins made especially for me—but how helpful is a computer-generated vitamin prescription anyway? Especially when research around whether or not vitamins actually do anything is so shoddy to begin with.

How do Care/Of Vitamins work?

You’ll start by filling out a survey online to address your health habits and concerns, along with whether you’re informed about vitamins, curious, or skeptical of the whole supplement thing.

The basics come first, mainly your age, where you live, and if you’re currently taking any vitamins. Next comes your health goals—whether you’re looking to supplement for a specific condition or just want better health in general—as well as things you want to focus on, like brain health, energy, immunity, stress, sleep, or digestion.

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After filling it all out—the survey only takes about five minutes, tops—Care/Of suggests a list of supplements. In my case, because, heck, I’m interested in all of these things, Care/Of ended up recommending six vitamins and two supplement packs.

Some Care/Of vitamins were typical ones you’d see on drugstore shelves, like vitamin D and B12; others were of the herbal variety, like ashwagandha and elderberry. The supplement packs (a.k.a. powders or “quick sticks”) are meant to add “something…extra” to your regimen, like their Extra Batteries formula that had a “blend of vitamin B12, citicoline, and caffeine.”

Spotlight on: Extra Batteries ? Made from vitamin B12, citicoline, and caffeine, this power-packed (and ? flavored!) Quick Stick supports attention, focus, and mental energy. We like to take one after late nights, early mornings or when we need an afternoon pick-me-up⚡️ #careof

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Seems like kind of a lot, right? I didn’t shell out for their recommendations, but I have to admit: I was tempted. Of course, I want to get more focused, stop bloat, protect my heart and bones, and enhance my energy, though, as my original survey results read, I was still skeptical of those vitamins actually doing that.

Care/Of does make sure to point out research behind each product they suggest, revealing the number of studies behind each vitamin, whether certain supplements are well-backed or not, what kind of studies they’re talking about, and then what the findings were.

Their claims for vitamin D, for example—that it’s essential for bone health and that many people don’t get enough of it—are backed by the National Institutes of Health.

But, as with a lot of current research, there are caveats here: Mainly that many studies were animal-based or done in very small study groups, making them inconclusive. A 2017 study in the journal Phytotherapy Research, for example, studied an herb called bacopa and its effects on lowering stress—but it used just 17 individuals. (Small sample sizes = take results with a grain of salt.)

Care/Of does even says clearly that the information provided “should not be read to recommend or endorse any specific products.”

So are Care/Of vitamins effective—or nah?

First things first: It’s really tough to tell a lot about a person—especially their health—through a few simple questions.

“Many of our problems—we’re stressed, exhausted, we can’t focus—they’re really general,” says Darria Long Gillespie, M.D., board-certified ER physician and assistant clinical professor at the University of Tennessee School of Medicine. “So, it’s really hard to pinpoint people’s problems from just a quick quiz, without taking blood levels.”

Got our weekend essentials in the bag #careof

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Got our weekend essentials in the bag #careof

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Another problem with Care/Of’s personalized vitamins and supplements, she says: “The solution to so many of those problems is lifestyle changes, and that’s not something you can get in the form of a pill.” Think: sleep habits and diet choices.

In fact, recent research published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that vitamins and minerals don’t lower heart disease risk (even though some are meant to). Instead, researchers recommend eating a healthy, plant-based diet, no supplements necessary.

It’s also important to note that the FDA doesn’t regulate supplements—even those “research-baked” ones by Care/Of—so you can never be 100 percent sure about what you’re getting in those little capsules. (FWIW, the company does say that all of its product testing takes place in the U.S. at NSF- and GMP-certified facilities—the only American National Standard in the dietary supplement industry, per the NSF’s website.)

Does that mean I should avoid supplements in general?

Not necessarily. Some people do need them, like if you’re following a vegan or vegetarian diet, or have a condition that affects vitamin absorption. But to figure that out, you need a blood test, says Gillespie.

“Go to your doctor, and get your vitamin and mineral levels checked,” she suggests. That way, you can treat your body with what it really needs, instead of making assumptions based on online surveys.

Gillespie’s motto when it comes to vitamins and supplements overall: “If it’s strong enough to help you, it’s strong enough to hurt you.” So you don’t want to take in something your body really doesn’t need more of, especially in pill form, since nutrient concentrations are way higher than they are in food.

The bottom line: Personalized vitamins like Care/Of aren’t going to be a magic bullet for your health—even though they’re “specifically for you.” If you’re interested in trying them, it’s likely not harmful—but know that unless you’ve been checked out by a doctor, any extra supplements you’re putting in your body might be unnecessary.

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