Health

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Vitamins Unnecessary for Some Children, Unavailable for Others

February 04, 2009 09:01 AM
by Cara McDonough
Are kids taking too many vitamin supplements? Are poor children vitamin deficient? One thing remains constant: advice on the subject is always changing.

Different Needs for Different Children

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A new report published in February’s issue of the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine shows that vitamin supplements in children and teenagers who eat a “varied diet” are largely unnecessary, reports HealthDay News. The children who need them the least—children with a varied lifestyle and good access to health care—are the children most likely to take them.

On the other hand, children with poor nutrition, children who are less physically active and those from low-income homes may not be getting the vitamins and minerals they need.

The study was conducted by University of California Davis researchers, who analyzed data on more than 10,000 children and teens from 1999 through 2004.

While the new study will hopefully provide useful information to families, it could also be confusing as advice on the topic of vitamins, particularly their use in children, changes frequently. Experts hope the study will stress the importance of the supplements for children in need.

“Our study indicates that children and adolescents who may face the greatest risks for VM [vitamin and mineral] deficiencies … use VM supplements the least,” said Ulfat Shaikh, MD, MPH, one of the researchers, according to WebMD.

For the children who need more vitamin supplements, cost appeared to be the biggest obstacle. The findings showed that only 22 percent of children in households below the poverty line used vitamins, while 43 percent of households above the poverty line used them.

The AAP currently doesn’t recommend supplements for children over the age of 1, except for children with chronic diseases and other conditions. Instead, the group recommends that children eat a wide variety of vitamin-rich foods. The AAP also warns about supplement overdosing, which can lead to kidney or liver damage, especially in children 2–4 years old.

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Related Topic: Other recent research on vitamins

Other studies in the past year have weighed the importance of vitamins and may make decisions about giving supplements to children confusing for some parents. 

For instance, in October, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended that young children do need more Vitamin D. The news came as mounting evidence links a lack of Vitamin D to Parkinson’s and other disorders.

But in November a study questioned the benefit of vitamins overall. A clinical trial found that the vitamins E and C had no effect on cancer rates for men, and another recent study found that they had no effect on heart disease. Although vitamins such as B12 supplements for the elderly and folic acid for women, and calcium and vitamin D for women over 65 have been proven to be beneficial, newer research shows that taking large doses of vitamins may not be beneficial.

Reference: Vitamins and children’s nutrition

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