Many parents worry about their child’s diet: Are they getting the nutrients they need from food, or should they be given a multivitamin supplement to fill in nutritional gaps? The answer may be more complicated than a simple yes or no. For example, ConsumerReports.org recently reported on research that found most children get enough nourishment from food to avoid deficiencies of most nutrients. The same article also reported that supplements are not reviewed by the FDA. Yet, the body of research as a whole suggests that multivitamins might be a good idea for children, and that one key is choosing supplements that are manufactured according to federal requirements. Specifically:
Previous research has found that multivitamins may be a particularly good source of magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamins A, C, and E for children over the age of eight who have a low dietary intake of these nutrients.
Multivitamins may be particularly important for picky eaters that scorn their peas and carrots (or other vegetables), since they may miss out on immune-boosting antioxidants like vitamins A, C, and E. In fact, one study found that children of all ages who did not take supplements were significantly more likely to have inadequate intakes of vitamins A, C, D, and E, as well as of calcium.
Not all supplements are created equal. The FDA has a set of rules called Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) that, among other things, requires manufacturers to test finished products for identity, strength, and purity. However, since not all supplement manufacturers follow GMPs, it’s important to stick with ones that do.
Finally, remember that children’s supplements vary in their levels of nutrients, and have different amounts of other ingredients. When choosing a multivitamin for your child, look for one that is free of artificial flavors and colors, free of hydrogenated oils (trans fats), and that is sweetened with natural sweeteners like sucrose, xylitol, or stevia. If you have young children, choose supplements in a bottle with a childproof cap, or consider an iron-free supplement, to prevent iron poisoning as a result of overdosing on yummy vitamins.
Source: Journal of Pediatrics and ConsumerReports.org