Does your child need multivitamins? Kids health facts you need to know
Are nutritional supplements important for your kids health? Many parents and caregivers give their children multi-vitamins/multi-minerals (MVM) nutritional supplements to ensure that they obtain the recommended essential nutrients to promote overall health, increase nutrient intake, and decrease the risk of diseases.
Overall, approximately 1 out of 4 children take an MVM or some type of nutritional supplement. However, children who are at the greatest risk of nutritional deficiencies are least likely to use nutritional supplements. Children who are more active, healthier, eat a balanced diet, and have better access to health care are more likely to take MVM supplements. The vitamin usage is highest among 2 to 4 year-olds and lowest among 12 to 17-year-olds.
Majority children typically meet the recommended intake of essential nutrients through dietary means alone. Studies show that eating a balanced, nutritious diet is the optimal method of obtaining essential nutrients. Health experts do not recommend nutritional supplementation in healthy children over the age of one. Nonetheless, pediatricians and dietitians may recommend supplementation if a child is underweight, a picky eater, on a restricted or special diet (e.g. a vegan diet) or has a medical condition that may increase the risk of nutritional deficiencies. For example, a child on a dairy-free diet may require calcium supplements and a child on a vegetarian diet may require iron supplements.
There is also an ongoing concern about the number of children and adults with low levels of vitamin D. Recent studies have found that approximately 70% of children are not getting sufficient amounts of vitamin D and that an estimated 9% are vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D deficiency is particularly prevalent among overweight and obese children. Nutritionists recommend a daily intake of 400 IU of vitamin D during the first year of life beginning a few days after birth, and a daily intake of 600 IU for everyone older than 1 year. Parents and caregivers consult their pediatricians and dietitians regarding their children’s vitamin D needs to ensure optimal levels are being met. Due to concern about vitamin D deficiencies in children, the vitamin content of many MVM supplements has been increased in the past few years. Many boys (aged 9 to 13 years) and girls (aged 9 to 18 years) do not obtain enough calcium from their diets.
Types of Nutritional Supplements for kids health
MVM supplements designed for children are available in chewable, gummy, gumball, and liquid formulations. In addition, single-entity products are available that may be beneficial for those who are deficient in just 1 nutrient, such as vitamin D or calcium. There are also liquid nutritional supplements that provide children with protein, fat, fiber, and a combination of vitamins and minerals to aid in growth and promote weight gain. Parents should be encouraged to discuss the use of liquid nutritional or MVM supplements with their pediatrician and dietitians to find the best option. MVM supplements for children may include omega-3 fatty acids for healthy brain development and heart health, extra vitamin C to promote immune support, as well as iron, calcium, zinc, vitamin D, the B vitamins, and vitamin E, which are all nutrients children are most commonly deficient in.
In addition to the typical children’s formulations, there are vitamins specifically designed to meet the nutritional needs of teenage boys or girls. The formulations for teen girls contain extra iron, which helps prevent iron-deficiency anemia during menstruation. On the other hand, the teen boys’ formula contains nutrients to promote muscle function and growth.
What you need to know?
Nutritional supplements should be kept out of kids’ reach to avoid accidental overdose, which is particularly important because they can easily be mistaken for candies. Parents should only give children the formulations that are marketed for use of children and to administer no more than the recommended dosage. Excessive doses, especially of fat-soluble vitamins, can cause toxicities. Since children are increasingly being prescribed medications to treat conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, allergies, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorders. Pharmacists should screen for possible contraindications and drug interactions before recommending supplements.
During counseling, doctors should advise parents and caregivers that nutritional supplements are intended to be used as adjuncts to—not substitutes for—a balanced, healthy diet. Parents and caregivers should also be reminded that these supplements are intended to prevent nutritional deficiencies and maintain nutritional stores. They are not intended for self-treatment of vitamin deficiencies. Patients exhibiting signs of nutritional deficiencies should always be referred to their primary health care provider for proper treatment. Check for possible therapeutic duplications to prevent possible toxicities, especially involving fat-soluble vitamins and iron.
Pharmacists assist parents and caregivers in the proper selection of nutritional supplements and in identifying possible drug-micronutrient interactions and contraindications. If there is any doubt regarding whether supplementation is needed, parents should be encouraged to discuss the use of MVM supplements with their pediatrician. It is especially important to remind patients that there is no substitute for eating a balanced, healthy diet to ensure the overall health of their child.