Kids Who Need Vitamins Not Getting Them While Those Who Get Them Don't Need Them
Ulfat Shaikh, lead study author, assistant professor of pediatrics at the UC Davis School of Medicine and a clinician at UC Davis Children's Hospital, said "Many of the children and adolescents who are using daily vitamin supplements may not need to take them, because they are receiving adequate nutrition from the foods they eat. Our study also indicates that children and adolescents who may face the greatest risks of vitamin and mineral deficiency are the least likely to be taking supplements."
Shaikh and team looked at data from 10,820 children aged 2-17 years. All the children had taken part in the 1999-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Kids were considered to be vitamin and mineral supplement users if they had taken a supplement within the month preceding their inclusion in the survey. The scientists also looked at how much exercise the children got, the types of foods they consumed and whether or not they were covered by health insurance, among other factors.
Shaikh said "We wanted to know more about which children take vitamin and mineral supplements and whether vitamin and mineral supplements may be used by parents to prevent medical problems related to poor diet or lower food security."
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend vitamin use in healthy children older than one year. Previous studies have shown that about one-third of children in the USA take a daily multi-vitamin. This study found that children who are healthier, more active, eat a balanced diet and have greater access to health care are more likely to take vitamins. The researchers also found that, among children who were in excellent health, 37% took vitamins. But only about 28 percent of children in fair or poor health took them.
Shaikh said "As expected, we found that a large number of underweight children had taken a multivitamin in the previous month. But we also found that between 30 and 40 percent of children who regularly eat vegetables and drink milk are taking supplements. 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 added that two-to-four year olds are the ones who are most likely to overdose as they tend to link taking vitamins with eating candy. Consumed in large quantities, vitamin and mineral supplements can cause adverse effects ranging from vomiting to serious side effects, such as damage to the kidneys. Shaikh said that future research on this issue will likely include direct interviews with parents to find out why they chose to give their children vitamins in cases where a medical reason for vitamin and mineral supplement use may not be present. "This is a descriptive study. The next step will be to explore with parents the reasons behind their decisions to provide their children with multi-vitamins," Shaikh said.
The researchers noted that factors which influence vitamin and mineral supplement use among children are the same ones that have been shown to interfere with children eating healthy diets, taking part in regular exercise and maintaining a healthy body weight.
The authors suggest that cost may be a factor stopping some children getting vitamins.
22% of children from households considered below the poverty level used vitamins, compared to 43% of children from household not considered poor. 38% of children not enrolled in the federal Food Stamp Program used vitamins, compared to 18% of those from households that use stamps.
"Vitamin and Mineral Supplement Use by Children and Adolescents in the 1999-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey."
Relationship With Nutrition, Food Security, Physical Activity, and Health Care Access
Ulfat Shaikh, MD, MPH; Robert S. Byrd, MD, MPH; Peggy Auinger, MS
Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2009;163(2):150-157.
Click here to read the abstract online.
Written by - Christian Nordqvist
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