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VITAMINS AND DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS:
ARE THEY SAFE FOR CHILDREN?


Retail shelves are packed with bottles of vitamins, alternative and herbal supplements that boast claims of aiding sleep, improving digestion, increasing energy, building muscle mass and more. It’s a $37 billion dollar industry in the United States operating without regulations for safety, quality or effectiveness.

Children are not immune from this industry, with companies packaging easy-to-chew, fruit- and candy-flavored gummy multivitamins and supplements into brightly colored containers with popular cartoon characters. With names like “kids extra strength brain supplement” and “kids fiber complete” coupled with concerns that their child might not be getting enough vitamins, parents might be compelled to pick up a bottle or two.

Recent survey results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Studies found that a third of U.S. children and adolescents take dietary supplements. The rate of kids taking herbal or alternative supplements has almost doubled from 3.7 percent to 6.3 percent between 2003 to 2014.

But do kids really need a daily multivitamin or other alternative supplement?

According to Dr. Natalie Muth, pediatrician at CPCMG La Costa and director of CPCMG’s WELL clinic and Walk with a Doc, the answer is typically no.

“The best source of vitamins and minerals for children is a healthy diet,” she says. “Eating the actual food is going to be far superior to any supplement. “

The majority of parental health concerns can be addressed through behavior and schedule changes. For children struggling with quality sleep, Dr. Muth recommends establishing a bedtime routine that includes relaxing activities, turning off electronic devices and cutting back on sugary, caffeinated beverages. Melatonin is an option that is used as a last resort, she says.

Instead of relying on vitamins or supplements, Dr. Muth says parents should concentrate on offering healthy foods and encouraging their children to try new things. What they eat will include vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber and other important vitamins and minerals that they need.

More information about the study can be found in a recent Wall Street Journal article. If parents are concerned that their child has a vitamin deficiency, illness or issue, be sure to consult with your CPCMG pediatrician to discuss next steps.