Does your child need  vitamins?

Does your child need vitamins?

Answering questions from Mommy Noire about the research on supplements for children


A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that in healthy adults, routine multivitamins aren't really effective in preventing cancer and other diseases. So I was contacted by Mommy Noire about whether similar research has been done to study the effects of multivitamins and vitamin supplements on children.  The full article can be accessed at Here's the essence of my answers to their questions:

1. Has similar research been done to study the effects of multivitamins and vitamin supplements on children?

Research in children has generally focused on children who have actual vitamin deficiencies for different reasons: the child whose intestines aren't able to absorb enough or who aren't getting enough nutrients in their diet. They certainly do show a positive response when the deficiencies are corrected. This is, of course, very different from the recent studies on health conscious adults and the general population, who don't generally benefit from a routine multivitamin. 

2. Should kids take vitamins and supplements? Are there specific supplements they shouldn't take? I know some studies have said some supplements increase risk of death in older women.

Healthy children who eat nutritious diets don't need supplements. They can get everything they need from a healthy diet. The problem is that far too many children don't eat well. Some picky eaters only eat carbs. Some children get too little iron or almost no vitamin C or vitamin D. My preference is always food first but that is not always easy. When a child's diet is less than perfect, which is most of the time, a daily multivitamin makes sense. A specific supplement may also be indicated to boost the calcium, vitamin D or other shortfall nutrient. 

What to Feed Your Baby has an entire chapter on how to get enough vitamins in your child's diet and another chapter on minerals. Both chapters address the potential toxicities that can occur from taking too many supplements. For more information, check out our website,

does your child need vitamins?

3. How effective are gummy vitamins for kids?

Gummy vitamins are effective, well absorbed nutrients. They are designed to appeal to children and adults who won't take a routine vitamin pill. Coloring, flavoring and sometimes sugars are added. (the same is true of some of the chewable vitamins) to make these chewable vitamins take good. They are so good that parents have to remember to keep them out of reach so the children won't treat them like candy. Overdosing on vitamin and minerals is risky business. 

4. Are there some kids who should never take vitamins? Are there kids who absolutely should?

Children with nutrient deficiencies because of a poor diet or have problems absorbing or processing nutrients should take the appropriate replacement vitamins or minerals. 

Everyone else doesn't need the extra. The water soluble vitamins will do little and simply be wasted. And the fat soluble ones may accumulate over time, with increased risks. And certain minerals like iron can deposit in the liver and other organs, interfering with how those organs function. 

5. What else should parents know about multivitamins?

African American children and those who wear sunscreen outside all the time, never go outside or live in the northern parts of the country are at risk for low Vitamin D levels. That translates into bone structure problems, and other inflammatory conditions. The Endocrine Society recommends supplementation, especially since we are finding more and more about the importance of Vitamin D. How much to supplement? Depends on age and general health, as laid out for you in What to Feed Your Baby–or you can simply ask your doctor.