This blog is focused on teens and adults, but parents are so apt to believe that it is
important to give their children vitamins or other dietary supplements to protect or
enhance their health, that a brief discussion of the need for vitamin supplements for
infants and children may be helpful.
The first rule is not to play doctor and give an infant or child supplements that are
not recommended by a pediatrician or other competent health care professional who
understands the dietary needs of infants and children and if supplements are indicated.
Other than recommended doses of vitamins, very few supplements have been
tested in infants and children, and there is reason to think that infants and children
may be more susceptible than adults to the harms caused by high doses of vitamins
and other dietary supplements. Decisions about vitamins for breast and bottle-fed
babies should be guided by the advice of a pediatrician or other professional health
Human milk provides enough of most vitamins, especially vitamin C, E, and the B
vitamins. Although human milk contains small amounts of vitamin D, the American
Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that breastfed babies receive oral
vitamin D drops which provide 400 IU (International Units) of vitamin D a day in
infants less than one year of age and 600 units/day for children over one year of age
until they are drinking vitamin D-fortified formula or milk.
Most babies are born with sufficient reserves of iron, and breastfeeding supplies
enough easily-absorbed iron, but it is recommended that bottle-fed babies get
iron-fortified formula through the first year of life. Children between 6 months and
two years and teenage girls, especially athletes, tend to be more susceptible to iron
deficiency, so ensuring an appropriate diet is important.
The AAP considers that after infancy, healthy children receiving a normal, well-balanced
diet do not need vitamin supplementation over and above the recommended
dietary allowances. Megadoses of vitamins—for example, large amounts of vitamins
A, C, or D—are of no benefit and can produce toxic symptoms, including
nausea, rashes, headaches, and sometimes other even more severe adverse health
Adequate calcium intake during childhood and adolescence is important for the
attainment of peak bone mass and the avoidance of osteoporosis later in life. Nonfat
milk and vegetables, such as broccoli and spinach, are good sources of calcium.
Some fruit juices are now fortified with calcium, but most have the drawback of
high sugar content.
The AAP has warned adults not to give children or adolescents sport drinks or nutrition
bars. Because they are highly fortified, a child who eats even “kid-friendly”
nutrition bars regularly can get too much vitamin A or too much vitamin B6. The
nutrition that is vital to a child’s health and development should come from food
that includes fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. This diet will almost certainly deliver
sufficient amounts of all of the essential vitamins and minerals. Unless blood
tests and a pediatrician’s evaluation reveal a specific deficiency, it’s preferable for
children to obtain nutrients from food instead of from dietary supplements. One
reason for this is because, unlike supplements, vegetables, fruits, and grains contain
phytochemicals and many other beneficial nutrients.
This blog presents opinions and ideas and is intended to provide helpful general information. I am not engaged in rendering advice or services to the individual reader. The ideas, procedures and suggestions in that are presented are not in any way a substitute for the advice and care of the reader’s own physician or other medical professional based on the reader’s own individual conditions, symptoms or concerns. If the reader needs personal medical, health, dietary, exercise or other assistance or advice the reader should consult a physician and/or other qualified health professionals. The author specifically disclaims all responsibility for any injury, damage or loss that the reader may incur as a direct or indirect consequence of following any directions or suggestions given in this blog or participating in any programs described in this blog or in the book, The Building Blocks of Health––How to Optimize Your Health with a Lifestyle Checklist (available in print or downloaded at Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble and elsewhere). Copyright 2021 by J. Joseph Speidel