It is a crowded world out there in the supplement market. You are definitely not alone if you have wondered whether your child is missing out for not taking the latest vitamin gummy on the pharmacy shelves.
As its name implies, vitamin and mineral supplements are meant to supplement or compensate for any nutritional deficits in a person’s diet. Ideally children should obtain these nutrients through a well-balanced and healthy diet. However, in reality there are many reasons why this may not be achieved.
Which kids need supplements?
Paediatricians may recommend daily doses of specific vitamins and minerals for the following:
- Children who are not eating sufficient fresh, whole foods
- Picky eaters who lack variety in their diets
- Children eating a lot of fast food or processed food
- Children with restricted diets, including vegetarians
- Children who drink a lot of carbonated beverages, which can leach vitamins and minerals from their bodies
- Children with chronic medical conditions such as asthma or digestive problems and those who have had surgery
Recent studies have shown that children in Singapore do not consume enough fruits, vegetables and whole grains while their sodium and sugar intakes are high. While eating habits need to be improved in general, vitamin and mineral supplementation may be beneficial in addressing any nutrient deficiencies they may have.
What are the essential supplements?
Several vitamins and minerals are critical for growing children.
Vitamin A aids in normal growth and development, as well as tissue and bone repair. It is also essential for maintaining healthy skin, eyes and immune responses.
Vitamin Bs The B vitamin family, which includes B2, B3, B6 and B12, is important for metabolism, energy production and maintaining a healthy heart and nervous system. Vitamin B12 is the most important of the B vitamins and is found primarily in animal-based foods. Children who are vegetarian/vegan may not get enough B12 in their regular diet.
Vitamin C aids the body’s ability to heal and fight off infections. It also helps to strengthen muscles, connective tissue and the skin. Reduced consumption of fruits and vegetables may result in a deficiency of this nutrient.
Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, which is required for bone and tooth formation. Because infant formula and growing up milk are usually fortified with vitamin D, infants and children who consume them do not need additional supplementation.
Calcium is the essential building block of bones and teeth. Building strong bones during their growing years will serve as reserves when bone loss occurs later in life.
Iron builds muscle and is essential for healthy red blood cells. It is especially critical during periods of rapid growth.
Some things to keep in mind
Fresh foods are the best source of nutrients. So, while you are attempting to address any nutrient deficiency in your child through supplementation, it is also important to serve a variety of whole, fresh foods as much as possible so that they do not require supplements for long.
Remember that it is entirely possible to overdose on vitamins through supplementation. Vitamin or mineral supplements can be toxic to children when taken in excess amounts. This is particularly true for the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Vitamins that are in gummy forms can also be easy to overeat because of their candy-like taste and appearance. It is best therefore to consult with your child’s paediatrician to see if they are indeed in need of any supplements and to always keep the supplements out of reach of children.
- Grow by WebMD. Vitamins for Kids: Do Healthy Kids Need Supplements? Available at: https://www.webmd.com/parenting/guide/vitamins-for-kids-do-healthy-kids-need-vitamins#1 Accessed 17 August 2021.
- Stanford Children’s Health. Kids Need Their Nutrients. Available at: https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=kids-need-their-nutrients--1-19820 Accessed 17 August 2021.
- Manson JE & Bassuk SS. JAMA 2018;319(9):859-860.
- Brownlee IA, et al. Nutrients 2019;11(11):2615.
- Choy MJY, et al. Nutrients 2021;13(4):1335.