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Do Children Need Extra Vitamins and Minerals?

By: Suzanne Elvidge BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 14 Sep 2012 |
 
Do Children Need Extra Vitamins And Minerals?

Children grow fast, and their developing brains and bodies need vitamins and minerals. Should they take vitamin supplements, or can they get everything they need from food?

Babies and children eating a balanced and healthy diet should get all the vitamins and minerals from their food. However, there are some situations where they do need just a little bit extra. Babies and children, especially those who are very young, should only be given vitamin and mineral supplements on the advice of a doctor.

Premature Babies

Premature and low-birth weight babies may need extra vitamins and minerals, especially iron, because they were not able to build up high enough stores from their mothers. This may also be true of babies born to women with poorly controlled diabetes.

Babies

Babies who are breast-fed should get all the vitamins and minerals they need from the breast milk, but it is important that women who are pregnant or breast-feeding are eating a healthy and balanced diet and are getting all the nutrients they need, especially if they are vegetarian or vegan. If the mother doesn’t get enough vitamins and minerals, or isn’t getting enough exposure to sunlight to form vitamin D in her skin, the baby may need a supplement.

When choosing a formula for bottle-fed babies it is a good idea to pick one that has vitamin and mineral supplements in it, and is designed for babies and children of the right age. If the formula is made up from bottled or filtered water rather than fluoridated tap water, the baby may need a fluoride supplement to help the formation of healthy teeth.

Babies are born with iron stores lasting for their first four to six months, and they should start to get iron from their food after this.

Toddlers

Parents should encourage toddlers to eat a wide variety of foods, but some children do become fussy eaters. Toddlers who eat only a limited range of foods may need a vitamin and mineral supplement – pick one that is designed for children, as adult doses may be too high. Many children’s vitamins are sweet and chewable, but watch out for ones with high levels of added sugar or lots of artificial colours, and make sure that they are kept out of the reach of children, who might mistake them for sweets and eat too many.

Older Children

Older children and teenagers eat more away from home. If they tend to eat junk food, which is low in nutrients, they may benefit from a vitamin and mineral supplement. Children who are very active may also need extra vitamins and minerals.

Children on Special Diets

Children who are vegans might benefit from supplements of iron, calcium, riboflavin and vitamin B12, and also vitamin D if they do not spend much time out in the sunlight. Vegetarian children may need iron supplements.

Doses That Are Too High

Babies and children should not have doses of vitamins and minerals that are too high, as these can be harmful, and can cause vomiting, and liver and kidney damage. For example, high doses of iron can cause stunted growth and diarrhoea, and can reduce the absorption of the minerals zinc and selenium.

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