Ask Dr. Marla: Is it OK to give my child a vitamin supplement?

By Dr. Marla Shapiro on March 22, 2013
Is it OK to give my child a multivitamin or vitamin supplement?


Research tells us that supplement use is most likely in children ages four to six. A study published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine shows that many parents believe that a multivitamin can give their child extra nutrients that may be missing. To answer your question I turned to the work of Dr. David Katz at Yale University. The bottom line, as he points out, is that we really don’t know if multivitamins or minerals do any good. However, we don’t believe that they do any harm.

As a physician and parent I advise that the best way to get the proper nutrients is through a healthy diet. Foods are rich in many different nutrients and likely work differently than when you take them as a vitamin. This view is also endorsed by the Canadian Paediatric Society, which recommends getting your nutrients from food as well as fortified food.

There may be special circumstances where your doctor will suggest a specific vitamin or mineral. For example, we do recommend vitamin D for infants who are exclusively breastfed. Or, if a child has a diet that restricts food groups, or has growth and development issues or food allergies, there could be a need for vitamin supplements. Children who are picky eaters or whose diets are high in fast foods might be lacking required essential vitamins and minerals.

Which vitamins and minerals?

Growing kids need calcium and vitamin D. We know this is essential to build peak bone mass and for our teeth. Vitamin D helps us absorb calcium as well. While we do fi nd vitamin D in fortifi ed foods, sunlight is the best source. In winter months, when many Canadians are lacking, a supplement may be useful.

Iron and B12 support our blood cells. Iron can be low in adolescent girls with periods.

Offer your children a wide selection of low fat dairy, fruits, vegetables, grains, fish, poultry, eggs and lean meat. Follow Canada’s Food Guide to make sure they are getting all they need!

Got a health question? Submit it to Dr. Marla.

Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, April 2013.

By Dr. Marla Shapiro| March 22, 2013

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