There seemed to be a vitamin or supplement for virtually anything these days. Parents are inundated with claims about how various supplements will assist their children, ranging from enhancing memory and immunity to boosting school performance and energy levels. But are children’s vitamins and minerals supplements actually safe?
We’ll go over everything you need to know about children’s vitamins and minerals, including when supplementation is necessary when it isn’t, and everything in between. We give you the lowdown on the perplexing world of supplements, particularly as it applies to children.
Supplements: What You Should Know
According to statista, $2 billion is spent each year in the United States on children’s vitamins and minerals supplements.
However, both academics and medical professionals believe that parents may be giving their children substances that they do not require.
One study of 10,000 children aged 2 to 17 years discovered that one-third of them had taken a vitamin or mineral supplement in the previous month and that the children who didn’t require the supplements were most likely the ones who took them.
These children were healthy, led active lives, and had access to nutritious food and healthcare. Meanwhile, individuals who could have benefited from supplementing were not taking them, such as those who did not have access to nutritional food or healthcare.
Is it Necessary For Every Child To Take Vitamins?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Dietetic Association (ADA), eating is the best source of vitamins and minerals.
Children who are healthy, and active, eat a variety of foods and see a healthcare expert on a regular basis are unlikely to require vitamin or mineral supplements unless prescribed by their doctor.
“The ideal way to obtain all vitamins and minerals that are essential for [your child’s] daily functioning is to eat a healthy, balanced, and varied diet from all food groups,” says Jonathan Valdez, RDN, CDE, CPT, owner of Genki Nutrition and media spokesperson for the New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Furthermore, high quantities of vitamins or megavitamins might be hazardous. Too much can cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, liver difficulties, and nerve abnormalities in children.
The best way to ensure your children get the vitamins and minerals they require is to provide a range of nutritious foods and to be a good role model. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein sources like nuts, tofu, poultry, fish, and eggs, legumes like beans and lentils, and dairy or dairy alternatives should all be included in their diet.
“Allowing their child to choose healthy foods and even having children assist grow and cook healthy meals are fantastic strategies to ensure that children eat enough to obtain the necessary daily vitamins and minerals,” Valdez explains.
However, taking vitamins and minerals may be prescribed by a healthcare professional at times.
When Do Children Require Supplements?
Although children’s vitamins and minerals should come from food, supplementation is sometimes necessary. Dr. Mills says newborns get vitamin K and exclusively breastfed babies get 400 IU of vitamin D. Children who are underweight, have developmental difficulties, are on a limited diet owing to food allergies or celiac disease, or have other illnesses or medical conditions may be advised to take vitamins or minerals.
Nutrient shortages may result from an inability to absorb nutrients, necessitating the use of supplements.JONATHAN VALDEZ
“Celiac illness is an inherited immunological response to gluten consumption that, if left untreated, can result in loss of several vital nutrients like iron and B vitamins,” explains Valdez. “Also, other disorders, such as phenylketonuria (PKU), can result in a restricted diet and may necessitate supplementation on an individual basis.”
The goal is to resist the desire to give your child vitamins until you consult with a paediatrician or certified nutritionist about your concerns.
“They can perform a physical exam, a food analysis, and blood testing to see if your child is deficient in key vitamins and minerals,” says Belinda Mills, MD, a primary care paediatrician at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. “They will also make recommendations on how to effectively fulfil your child’s specific requirements.”
Important Children’s Vitamins and Minerals
All vitamins and minerals are essential for growth and development, but some are particularly crucial for children and teenagers. Here are some of the vitamins and minerals that your developing youngster requires.
This is an important mineral for children, especially during periods of rapid growth. It not only aids in the synthesis of blood and the development of muscles, but it also provides energy to children. However, according to the AAP, most children in the United States do not consume enough iron.
The most commonly prescribed supplement is iron. Many children’s diets are deficient in iron.BELINDA MILLS, M.D.
“Another source of this deficiency is that they consume too much cow’s milk, which can lead to anaemia,” she adds. “Exceeding the prescribed amount can result in microcystic blood loss in the intestines.”
Due to the prevalence of iron deficiency in young children, Dr. Mills advises that iron levels be measured between the ages of one and two. Typically, this test consists of a simple finger prick performed at the office during a routine visit. Iron deficiency can also occur in young girls who start menstruation but do not consume enough iron.
“Children aged one to three require 7 milligrams of iron, whereas children aged four to eight require 10 milligrams,” explains Valdez. “Including heme sources of iron—the most absorbable type of iron found in meat, poultry, and fish—is one method to guarantee your kids are getting enough iron.”
If your child refuses to consume iron-rich foods, you may need to discuss supplementation with their healthcare physician. Dr. Mills, on the other hand, advises against purchasing an iron supplement on your own.
“Not only may too much iron be hazardous, but parents sometimes do not administer the supplement to their children appropriately,” she explains. “Iron is best taken with vitamin C since it aids absorption, so parents can offer their children an orange or a glass of orange juice when taking an iron supplement.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Mills recommends that you avoid giving your child a fatty meal or dairy product one hour before and two hours after taking an iron supplement. These factors can have an impact on iron absorption.
“Sometimes parents struggle to convince their children to take iron because it is unsatisfying and unpalatable,” she explains. “We can assist them in hiding it, such as by adding it to chocolate syrup.”
Calcium is an essential vitamin for the development and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth. However, according to the AAP, most children in the United States do not consume enough calcium.
Inadequate milk consumption throughout childhood can impact growth and development, as well as contribute to fragile, porous, and weak bones, which can lead to osteoporosis later in life.
“According to the RDA, children aged 1 to 3 require 700 milligrams of calcium per day, while children aged 4 to 8 require 1000 mg,” explains Valdez. “Calcium-rich foods include milk, cheese, yoghurt, and calcium-set tofu. Calcium-fortified soy milk, orange juice, and ready-to-eat cereals are other healthy options.”
To ensure your youngster gets adequate calcium, he recommends two to three servings of calcium-rich meals per day.
3. Vitamin D
Because of increased screen time, sunscreen use, and a lack of time outside, the majority of Americans are vitamin D deficient. Furthermore, if your child does not consume non-dairy milk, or they have cystic fibrosis, they may be vitamin D deficient.
The requirement for vitamin D is absolutely something worth discussing with a healthcare provider. Especially since vitamin D regulates calcium absorption and aids in the growth of bones and teeth. Taking a multivitamin with enough doses of vitamin D (400 IU for babies and children) is often sufficient.
Keep in mind that, unlike water-soluble vitamins, vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that accumulates in the body. Due to toxicity, Dr. Mills advises giving vitamin D supplements to children only under the supervision of a healthcare expert.
4. Vitamin A
Overall, vitamin A promotes healthy skin and eyes and is necessary for growth. It also has an effect on immunity, as well as tissue and bone healing. Yellow and orange vegetables like cantaloupe, carrots, and sweet potatoes, leafy greens like kale, collards, and spinach, and fortified milk, cheese, and eggs are all good sources of vitamin A.
5. Vitamin B
There are numerous distinct types of B vitamins. B1, B2, B6, B12, niacin, folic acid, biotin, and pantothenic acid are among them. B vitamins aid in the development of red blood cells, which transport oxygen throughout the body and provide energy to your child. These vitamins are also necessary for optimal growth and metabolism.
Children who follow vegan or vegetarian diets or do not consume meat may be deficient in certain B vitamins. Consult your doctor about taking B vitamins, especially B12, which are exclusively available in animal-based diets.
According to Valdez, “certain vegetarian and vegan diets that are not carefully planned and maintained can result in vitamin or mineral shortages.”
6. Vitamin C
Vitamin C, as the body’s weapon for healing and fighting infection, also strengthens tissue, muscles, and skin. It also aids iron absorption in children and maintains the health of the body’s tissues, bones, and blood vessels. Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits, strawberries, tomatoes, potatoes, brussels sprouts, sweet red peppers, spinach, and broccoli.
Precautions and Safety
When purchasing vitamins and minerals over the counter, keep in mind that FDA does not regulate these goods.
In fact, attempting to self-prescribe vitamins and minerals for your children might be hazardous. She claims that large doses of several vitamins and minerals, particularly iron and vitamin D, can be hazardous to children.
Furthermore, there is a risk of vitamin and mineral overdose. Keep vitamins and minerals in a secure location out of reach of children. Kids, especially young children, mistake gummy vitamins for candy or fruit chews, so emphasize that these are medicines that should not be consumed without permission.
Also Read: Dinner Recipes For The Nigerian Family
According to the ADA, thousands of youngsters are taken to the emergency room each year.
In one case study, a toddler who took too much vitamin D developed vitamin D toxicity. Another study found three incidences of vitamin A toxicity in children as a result of ingesting too many candy-like vitamins.
Consult with a healthcare professional about what to look for and how much of each vitamin or mineral is necessary when selecting the proper vitamin supplement for your child. Chewable vitamins are generally appropriate for children over the age of three, as long as they can chew hard foods. A healthcare physician may also prescribe a liquid form of certain vitamins and minerals in specific instances.
Final Thoughts About Children Vitamins and Minerals
Every parent wants to be sure their children are getting the vitamins and minerals they require. However, before purchasing a bottle at your local supermarket or drugstore, consult with a healthcare expert about your child’s specific needs. They can advise and guide you on what to acquire for your child and how much they require.
It is also essential to schedule regular checks for your child so that his or her health and well-being may be monitored. The healthcare expert can then adjust dosages as necessary or inform you when supplements are no longer necessary.