Should children use supplements?

Dr Juliane Weber BSc (Hons), PhD (Psychology)

Health Intelligence.

You may be taking dietary supplements to address various health concerns, or a multivitamin to ensure you’re getting all the micronutrients that your body needs, but should you be giving your children supplements too?

Healthy eating

According to experts the answer is “no”.  Most healthy children don’t need any supplements.  This, however, rely on your child eating a variety of fresh foods from the five food groups.  Eating regular, healthy and varied meals and snacks should provide all the vitamins and minerals needed for normal growth,  good health and development. Fresh produce, healthy food and a balanced diet is the best source of nutrients for children and adults.

A great source of vitamin and mineral enriched foods include whole grain breads and cereals, vegetables, fruit, meat, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts and legumes, and dairy products such as milk, cheese and yoghurt. Most of these foods contain B vitamins, vitamin D, calcium and iron. Your children are probably getting more vitamins and minerals than you think, even if they are picky eaters.

If your family is vegan or your child is a fussy eater, seek expert advice to find out how this may affect nutrient intake. You should also discuss supplementation with your doctor or registered dietician if your child is failing to thrive, or has a chronic medical condition or allergy.

Baby and nutrients

When it comes to babies, breast milk or fortified infant formula should provide all the nutrients your newborn needs. Some paediatrics recommend vitamin D supplementation to ensure proper bone development, but with the ample sunshine available in South Africa (an important source of vitamin D), this isn’t standard practice locally. Some babies my need extra iron, for example, those born prematurely or with a low birth weight. You should discuss the need for supplementation with your baby’s doctor, especially if you are keeping your baby out of the sun or when iron-rich solids (for example fortified cereal or meat) haven’t been introduced by six months.

Choosing the right supplements

If you decide to give your child a supplement, choose one that is specifically formulated for children, high doses of some vitamins and minerals can be harmful.  Remember that some supplements can interact with certain medications, so be sure to discuss this with your doctor or pharmacist. Always read the enclosed pamphlet to assure safe and appropriate use. Keep supplements and medicines out of reach from children.


Back to Articles
Other Articles