Written by: Cally Worden
When I was little my Mum used to stand at the front door each morning with a bottle of Minadex in hand – a quick 5ml slurp before school and that was our daily dose of vitamins. And then there was the trauma of the Cod Liver Oil dose to endure too. I’m shuddering at the memory. Ironically I can’t remember if we got poorly much or not. But, irrespective of the actual effectiveness of supplements, 1970’s wisdom was very much all about making sure we all got our daily dose of vitamins and minerals. Have things moved on today?
The intervening years have seen an explosion in the variety and range of foods on offer to us. Manufacturers play on our desire to do the best for our kids, so bombard us with cereals that are ‘Fortified with Vitamins and Minerals’ and fruit juices that contain more vitamin C than you could ever need. If our diets are so well catered for on the vitamin front, why do we need supplements?
Many experts don’t think we do. The RDI is a general guideline and there is no hard evidence about the precise level of vitamins our kids really need. It can be argued that on a balanced diet, most kids will get what they need. In fact, too much of certain vitamins can be bad for your body, if we feed our kids a multivitamin that covers their Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) in one go, we then risk overdosing them via ordinary food channels.
Conversely, those who support the use of multivitamins argue that it’s not so easy to overdose – you need a huge amount of a vitamin to cause any damage to the body. They believe that multivitamins act as the perfect back-up, just in case our kids’ diets fall short. And let’s face it, in this age of fast food, ready meals and convenience there is a good chance that some kids don’t quite get all the nutrients they really need.
Which Vitamins are Important?
All vitamins and minerals are important to our bodies to varying to degrees, but some key ones for our children are:
- Calcium – essential for strong bone growth
- Iron – important for creating haemoglobin to circulate oxygen around the body, without which the body can become very tired
- Fibre – helps regulate weight and overall mood, an prevents constipation
- Vitamin A – boost the immune system and is essential for cell growth and development
- Vitamin C – helps the body absorb Iron and is essential for healthy bones and teeth
- Vitamin D – promotes bone strength and helps the absorption of Calcium
The use of sunscreen and our increasing tendency to spend less time outdoors has reduced our overall exposure to sunlight – in the past this has been a primary source for vitamin D for our kids. This prompts some family doctors to prescribe a vitamin D supplement in the winter months for young children.
From what I’ve read I can’t see that a daily vitamin will do any harm. And it may just help keep your child’s body topped-up with the right balance of nutrients. But that’s not to say that kids who don’t receive a supplement will suffer. I think it all comes down to personal preference and budget – these supplements are not always cheap. Do you give your kids multivitamins?