About one in three American children use dietary supplements—most often in the form of multivitamins and minerals, according to a study released in the October Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. "This is the best study so far [on supplement usage in children] and it really raises the issue of how much do we know about the levels and sources of nutrients children are getting," said Daniel Fabricant, Ph.D., vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs for the Natural Products Association.? "The information [in this study] could be used along with food studies to provide a real nutritional picture for kids that could impact nutritional programs in this country."
Of the more than 10,000 children studied, the highest supplement use was among the 4- to 8-year-old set (48 percent), with the lowest use in infants younger than 1 (11 percent). This could be simply the result of the market presence and allure of children's vitamins like Flintstones, Fabricant said.
The study also reported usage differences by ethnicity. Thirty-eight percent of white, non-Hispanic kids used dietary supplements compared with 22 percent of Mexican-American and 18 percent of black children. "This could be the result of access to health care professionals or social factors at play," Fabricant said. "This study shows that more research to answer these kinds of questions needs to be done."
Although the verdict is still out regarding the necessity of multivitamins and minerals for kids, most experts agree that a daily vitamin and mineral supplement will not cause harm and may provide nutritional insurance. "We know from studies that only about 23 percent of adults are getting the five daily recommended servings of fruits and vegetables so it's safe to say that kids probably aren't either. There could easily be some nutritional gaps," Fabricant said.