There’s so much information in the market these days about vitamin supplements – some say they’re essential for kids, some say they’re not necessary. Time Out Kids spoke to Dr. Nagwan Said Mohamed, Registrar Paediatrician, to get to the bottom of the issue.
Why should my kids take vitamins and supplements and do they really need them?
Vitamins and minerals are important elements of the total nutritional requirements of your child. Because the human body itself is unable to produce adequate amounts of many vitamins, they must be obtained through diet. Paediatricians may recommend a daily supplement, if your child has a poor appetite or erratic eating habits.
Which kids are more likely to need vitamin supplements?
Some kids are picky eaters and not eating well-balanced meals everyday, particularly active kids who play physical sports. Similarly, children that eat a lot of fast food, convenience food, and processed foods are likely to need supplements. Kids who drink a lot of fizzy drinks, which can leach vitamins and minerals from their bodies, and also kids on restricted diets like vegetarians. Lastly, some kids with medical conditions like Asthma or digestive problems are likely to need vitamin supplements.
Are there any kids which supplementary vitamins would not be suitable for?
Multivitamins aren’t necessary for most healthy children who are growing normally. Also large doses of vitamins in general, can be harmful and toxic.
How do I know if my kids really need vitamins or not?
The American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP), recommends that all infants and children, including adolescents, have a minimum daily intake of 400 IU of vitamin D beginning soon after birth. Exclusively and partially breastfed babies should receive 400 IU of vitamin D each day starting in the first few days of life and continuing up until babies are weaned to at least one litre or one quart of vitamin D fortified formula or milk a day.
We eat a balanced and varied diet of fresh, healthy foods – will my kids still need a vitamin supplement?
Not necessarily, it’s much better that kids should get their vitamins from a balanced, healthy diet that includes milk and dairy products (cheese and yoghurt), fresh fruits and green vegetables, proteins like chicken and eggs and fish and meat, and whole grains like oats and brown rice.
It’s all very confusing – some experts say kids don’t need vitamins, some say they do. How do I know who to believe in all this?
The American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP), advises giving your child a supplement only if your child’s doctor recommends one. The AAP claims most children don’t need supplements because so many common foods are fortified. The AAP acknowledges that taking a supplement won’t do any harm as long as it doesn’t exceed the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for any vitamin or mineral.
From what age is it OK to give my kids a multi vitamin?
Toddlers and young children, as well as school age children are advised to take multivitamins whenever recommended.
I’m very busy and we eat out a lot as a family - do multi vitamins replace the need for a balanced diet?
While most paediatricians agree that a parent’s first line of defence should be diet, they acknowledge that our busy schedules make it hard for us to get healthy meals, so taking multivitamins could help.
We want you to eat good food...and the vitamins would supplement that diet only if necessary.
Time Out Kids remembers being given cod liver oil as a kid, which tasted disgusting. There’s no way my kids would take cod liver oil - don’t all vitamin supplements taste bad?
Cod liver oil is rich source Omega 3 fatty acids+ vitamins A and D which is available in a Gummy bears form, and tastes delicious to children, so not all vitamins taste bad, no.
Are there certain vitamins that are more commonly lacking in kids than others?
Yes definitely, Vitamin D is often lacking in exclusively breast feeding infants.
Is there such a thing as getting too many vitamins? Can my kids overdose on vitamins? (And if so, what will happen and what should I do?)
Mega vitamins, large doses of vitamins aren’t a good idea for children. The fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, and K) can be toxic if kids overdose on excessive amounts, so it is always best consult your paediatrician if you have any doubt. Always make sure that you give the correct recommended dosage for the child’s age, to avoid overdose.
I’m still not convinced my child needs extra vitamins. Every time I turn around another vitamin has been stuffed in somewhere – added omega threes in milk, bread, vitamin D in cereal, calcium in fruit juices, you name it, these days it seems to have extra vitamins in it. What are your thoughts on this and with all this stuff on the market, how am I meant to know when enough is enough?
Simply put, I have been unable to find a single study, not one, that would suggest a need or a benefit to giving a growing healthy child a multivitamin. Especially if the child eating habits are good. Full stop.
However when used correctly, vitamin supplements for kids can be helpful in preventing deficiencies (and minimising worry for parents). For example, if you’re concerned that your child’s diet is lacking – because he won’t put anything green in his mouth for example – you might want to give him a supplement for your peace of mind.
Dr. Nagan Said Mohamed is a Registrar Paediatrician at Cedars Jebel Ali International Hospital, Dubai and spokesperson for YaYa vitamins.