Should Children Be Given Multivitamin

Most children equate food to buttery rolls, sweet, creamy desserts bottomless packs of salted crispees and of course the ubiquitous cola drinks. Their mantra for balanced nutrition? Eat what you want and then swallow that attractively colored multivitamin pill. 

But health and nutrition does not come with a colored pill. They come with good eating habits and balanced diets.   Parents should help children inculcate healthy food habits. Replacing soft drinks with real fruits and the crispees with vegetable salads is a good beginning. What then is the use of a multivitamin pill? Is it redundant for children? 

What are multivitamins?

These are supplements for providing balanced nutrition that are available as pills, powders, capsules, liquids (for toddlers and babies) and as injections. Except the last form (that is given under medical supervision) all the other forms of multivitamins are available over the counter. In the US it is defined as a nutritious supplement that contains three or more vitamins and minerals included within tolerable levels, without any additions of drugs, hormones or herbs. It also does not create any adverse reactions.
Multivitamin pills are recommended for children who are
  • On a special diet that excludes these Vitamins
  • Not able to consume a balanced diet
  • Allergic to certain types of foods that are rich in particular nutrients. (Some children break into a rash as soon as they consume carrot in any form. They should be given an optimum supplement of Vitamin A ) 
For the rest it is important to give foods prepared from sources found in nature. Consuming meals that contain carbohydrates, minerals, Vitamins, proteins, fiber and water in a nutritionally balanced form, ensures health and strength for children. Natural food sources are whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, poultry, marine life and meat. Also, there are high quality vitamin and mineral fortified foods available.
Parents constantly worry whether the meals their children eat have these nutrients. That is why they opt for supplements, in the hope that any discrepancy, deficiency in the meal can be set right by the multivitamins. So far, it has been seen that these supplements are quite harmless. Pediatricians, recommend some supplements for children who may need them and these have to be compulsorily given for the child’s benefit. 
Instances when supplements are inevitable are
  • Studies have found a large number of people who are Vitamin D deficient in the country. This may be because of poor sunlight, non availability of Vitamin D rich foods or because of the person’s inability to absorb the Vitamin. It is thus necessary to take supplements of Vitamin D in the recommended dose
  • Natural food sources for nutrients may be contaminated due to environmental pollutants. These foods will not deliver the expected nutrients on consumption.
  • Children who eat nutritious diets may not be able to absorb the vitamins and minerals from them; supplements will set right this problem 
Studies have shown that multivitamin supplement consumption has come down today as compared to the 70s. However, there is still a large section of the population which believes that a healthy meal is incomplete without specific multivitamin supplements. 
Will there come a time when parents can confidently say that their children get all their nutrition only from meals and not supplements? We will have to wait and watch. 
Blurb: Multivitamins are nutrition supplements that help create balanced nutrition for children, so most parents believe. However, feeding children well balanced meals with natural food sources is easy, convenient and healthy. Children have to be motivated to eat sensibly and avoid eating tablets. However, these tablets are harmless and sometimes essential for some children who are not able to absorb supplements from natural foods. 

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