It is estimated that about USD 2 billion is spent annually in the United States on supplements, though many parents are unsure if their child should be taking these supplements.
The term supplements refer to the external intervention where vitamins and other nutrients are used in medicine or tablet to supplement the regular diet. Vitamins and minerals are essential for the life and maintenance of everyday health. Many parents commonly give their children a daily dose of multivitamin and minerals such as calcium or iron supplements. As they grow, getting adequate calcium and vitamin D that help build strong bones is essential for children. Besides, micronutrients and trace elements such as iron, iodine, zinc, selenium, copper, molybdenum, chromium, vitamins A, B6 (folate), B12, and D play a crucial role in brain development in early life. Usually, all these are absorbed from the food the children eat – those who eat a healthy, balanced diet will not need any supplement. Children between 2 and 8 years require 1,400 - 1,900 calories every day, while those between 9 and 13 years need a minimum of 2,000 calories, up to 2,600 calories daily, depending on factors such as activity level.
One can rarely come across a mother who does not complain of her child being nutritionally deficient because s/he does not eat properly. While infants get all the required nutrition with exclusive breastfeeding, they are not eating enough to grow older and start eating independently. However, as per the US Department of Agriculture Dietary Guidelines, supplements over and above the recommended diets for healthy children older than one who eat a balanced diet -- eat a variety of vegetables, fruits, grains, protein, and dairy fulfilling the calorific needs – can overkill.
Nevertheless, children like the following may need the help of nutritional supplements to avoid the risk of deficiency:
Most likely, children who eat plant-based diets and few or no animal products may be at risk of micronutrients deficiencies such as calcium, zinc, iron, and vitamins B12 & D and will need to be supplemented through fortified foods. In India, wheat flour, rice, edible oil, milk, and salt are fortified, and packets are marked with an ‘F+’ mark for easy identification. Iron, folic acid, and vitamin B12 are added to wheat flour and rice, vitamins A and D to edible oil and milk and iron and iodine are added to salt. If a child needs supplementation, ensure that all supplements are prescribed by a doctor and administered as per dosage to avoid overdose or toxicity.
(Inputs By Dr SURBHIT RASTOGI, Indian Spinal Injuries Centre (ISIC), New Delhi)