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Do your children need vitamin supplements?

June 29, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Sales of kids' vitamins and supplements have reached the billion-dollar mark. Now companies are starting to include some of the things adults take. But do kids really need omega-3 supplements or extra vitamin D? These days, parents are reaching for more than just the multivitamin when it comes to their kids. Individual supplements are being marketed for children, and sales are on the rise. But are all those vitamins really necessary for kids?

For Natasha Solis-Ramos, mealtime can be a food fight. There are certain dishes her 1-year-old loves.

"I can give her chicken nuggets or quesadillas and fruit," said Solis-Ramos.

And those she loves to leave on her plate.

"She doesn't like her vegetables too much. She doesn't really eat any type of red meat," said Solis-Ramos.

To ensure her daughter Eivissa gets her ABCs, Solis-Ramos gives her a multivitamin, and was considering cod-liver oil, too.

Carlotta Mast, with the Nutrition Business Journal, says sales of children's formulas are on the rise in 2009.

"Sales of children's vitamins and mineral products grew 25 percent at grocery stores, drug stores, and other mass market stores, and grew 10 percent in natural health food stores and vitamin specialty stores," said Mast.

We're not just talking multivitamins. Separate supplements, like omega-3s and vitamin D are also experiencing healthy growth.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says vitamins and other supplements are only necessary when a child isn't eating a healthy, well-balanced diet. And even then: "Vitamins, by definition, are only needed in small amounts. So even the pickiest of eaters probably have enough of all the vitamins that they need," said Dr. Michael Cabana, American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

A trade association for vitamin and supplement makers disagrees.

"In fact, data from the USDA shows that kids fall short in some very important nutrients, including calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D," said Dr. Duffy MacKay, Council for Responsible Nutrition.

Cabana agrees vitamin D is an exception. Exclusively breastfed infants, along with African-American and Hispanic children tend to be at risk for deficiency, but he doesn't believe omega-3s are beneficial for kids.

Cabana says that many experts now suggest revising vitamin D recommendations to accommodate high-risk groups.

The AAP currently recommends that children who are exclusively breastfed receive 400 international units of vitamin D daily.


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