A new study reports that most of the healthy children and teenagers in the United States who take daily vitamin and mineral supplements probably don't need them, while the kids who would benefit from supplements are least likely to get them.
Most kids taking daily vitamin supplements already receive adequate nutrition from the foods they eat, and were healthier overall, have health insurance, and come from upper-income families, the researchers report.
Meanwhile, kids who do need supplemental vitamins and are in fair or poor health — due to less healthy diets, less physical activity, higher obesity rates, less access to health care, and lower family income — might not get them. As the study's authors noted, supplements might not seem expensive to middle-class families, but their cost might not be in the budget of low-income families.
What This Means to You
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend routine vitamin supplements for healthy children over 1 year old, yet earlier studies have reported that about a third of U.S. kids take a daily multivitamin.
If your kids eat a wide variety of foods, including whole-grain products, fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products, nuts, seeds, eggs, and meats, then they're probably getting the vitamins and minerals they need.
The one exception is vitamin D — the AAP now recommends that all kids get 400 IU of vitamin D every day, starting as early as a few days old for some. Kids can get vitamin D from fortified foods, milk, fish, and egg yolks, but most don't get enough of it from food alone.
Taken in large quantities, vitamin and mineral supplements can cause adverse effects ranging from vomiting to serious side effects, such as damage to the kidneys. Fat-soluble vitamins or minerals, for instance, which the body stores and excretes slowly, can build up to levels that could cause problems.
If you think your child might need a multivitamin or other nutritional supplement, speak with your doctor.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: February 2009
Source: "Vitamin and Mineral Supplementation in Children." Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine. Feb. 2009.