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

Is it OK to
give my child a
or vitamin


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.

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