Should Children Take Supplements?
As children grow and develop, getting the right vitamins and nutrients is essential. Research has found that about 1 in 9 children take some type of supplement. Are all supplements safe for kids? What vitamins do children need?
Understanding nutrient needs
Children are not little adults. Still, kids have similar nutrient needs to ensure proper growth and development. Just like with adults, nutrient needs vary by age, sex, size, and activity level. Children typically need nutrients in smaller amounts than adults. The same vitamins are essential, such as vitamin D, calcium, iron, zinc, vitamin A, and B12.
Know your daily values
Dietary reference intakes (DRIs) act as general guidelines for how much of a specific nutrient a child needs. For example, children who are 1-3 years old only need about 700mg of calcium and 15mg of vitamin C. Those who are in the 4-8 age range can usually have up to 1,000mg of calcium and 25mg of vitamin C. As children become preteens and teens, caloric intake might be up to 1,400-2,600 calories a day, and DRIs will increase.
Start with diet
Generally, if a child follows a healthy diet, supplements are not needed. However, some children have a higher risk of nutrient deficiencies. Specific health conditions, such as celiac disease, cystic fibrosis, or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), may affect a child’s nutrition needs. Children who are incredibly picky eaters or follow vegan diets may also need some supplementation.
What supplements are safe?
All supplements should only be taken at the recommendation of a healthcare provider. Children with specific deficiencies may benefit from zinc, vitamin D, or iron supplements. However, proceed with caution. Kids are particularly at risk of vitamin or mineral toxicity, so always supervise a child’s supplement use and keep vitamins out of reach.
What about multivitamins?
For most children, multivitamins do not offer additional benefits. Food is the best source of nutrition. Furthermore, multivitamins can pose some risks if a child takes one unnecessarily. If a doctor recommends a multivitamin, look for one designed for the child’s age group. Make sure the multivitamin doesn’t contain more than 100% of any of the daily values for vitamins and minerals.
Speak with a healthcare provider
Before starting a child on any supplement, speak with a healthcare provider. Some kids can benefit from the extra nutrients, but others don’t need to take any vitamins and may even experience adverse health effects. For more information, speak with a healthcare provider.