Are Vitamins Vital for Kids?

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A new study by UC Davis revealed that vitamin use is highest in children who “don’t need them” and lowest in children who likely have nutrient deficiencies. While the research is hardly surprising (health-minded parents already feed their kids a healthy diet and encourage exercise on top of supplementing with vitamins), I thought lead researcher Ulfat Shaikh came down too hard on their use in otherwise healthy kids:

“Supplements for children and adolescents who are healthy and eat a varied diet are not only medically unnecessary but they are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA),” Shaikh said.

In fact, the FDA does regulate supplements, just not with the same criteria with which it regulates drugs. And supplements have an overwhelmingly safe record of use compared to pharmaceuticals. Also, with the majority of American food being grown in nutrient-depleted soil, even the federal government admits children and teens are at risk for having inadequate intakes of calcium, potassium, fiber, magnesium, and vitamin E.

 

Many kids also don’t get enough vitamin D during the darker winter months: Researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Boston found that 40 percent of otherwise healthy infants and toddlers had “suboptimal” vitamin D levels, with 12 percent having a clinical deficiency. And because vitamin D occurs naturally in very few foods, I wouldn’t hesitate to give my child, at the very minimum, a vitamin D supplement during the winter months.  

Basically, as long as vitamins aren’t abused and overdosed like candy (because, boy, do some of those gummy multis taste good!), I think a well-rounded multivitamin can only help the health of growing kids.

On the other end of the spectrum, we definitely need to find a way to make vitamins more affordable for the kids who need them. The study showed that in households where food insecurity was an issue, only 15 percent of children use vitamins. Not that supplements are a meal replacement, but they certainly can go a long way toward filling the nutritional gaps these kids are sure to have. Most insurance companies and even federal programs like health savings accounts don’t allow vitamins to be reimbursed (unless prescribed by a doctor).