Do children need to take a multivitamin?
Whether or not children need to take a multivitamin depends on their individual dietary intake and nutritional needs. In general, if a child has a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and dairy products, they should obtain most of the necessary vitamins and minerals from their food.
However, there are certain situations where a multivitamin may be recommended for children:
- Nutritional inadequacies: If a child has a known inadequacy in certain vitamins or minerals, such as iron or vitamin D, their healthcare provider may suggest a specific supplement to address that deficiency. Based on ABS data, Australian children may not be getting enough of the following.
- Vitamin D: Many children, especially those living in northern latitudes or with limited sun exposure, may not get enough vitamin D. This nutrient is important for bone health and immune function.
- Calcium: Insufficient calcium intake can affect bone development and increase the risk of osteoporosis later in life. Dairy products, fortified plant-based milks, and leafy green vegetables are good sources of calcium.
- Iron: Low iron is common among children, particularly in those with poor dietary diversity or a vegetarian/vegan diet. Iron is necessary for healthy red blood cells and overall growth and development.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: These essential fats, particularly DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), play a vital role in brain development and function. They are commonly found in fatty fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts.
- Fibre: Many children do not consume enough fibre, which is essential for digestive health and helps prevent constipation. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes are good sources of fibre.
- Restricted diets: Some children may follow restricted diets due to food allergies, intolerances, or cultural/religious preferences. In such cases, a multivitamin can help ensure they are getting all the necessary nutrients.
- Picky eaters: If a child constantly avoids certain food groups or has an extremely limited diet, a multivitamin can help bridge the nutritional gaps.
- Increased nutritional needs: During periods of rapid growth, such as adolescence, or during times of increased physical activity or illness, a child's nutritional requirements may be higher. In these cases, a multivitamin can provide additional support.
It's important to note that the prevalence of nutrient deficiencies may vary based on various factors, including geographic location, cultural practices, and individual dietary patterns.
If you think your child is low on some vitamins or minerals and can’t eat more food containing these vitamins and minerals, see your GP or healthcare provider for advice. They may suggest that your child takes an appropriate supplement.
1. Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2017-18). Children's risk factors. ABS. https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/health/health-conditions-and-risks/childrens-risk-factors/latest-release.
2. Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2011, December). Australian Health Survey: Nutrition First Results - Foods and Nutrients. ABS. https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/health/health-conditions-and-risks/australian-health-survey-nutrition-first-results-foods-and-nutrients/latest-release.
3. Chao, H. C., Lu, J. J., Yang, C. Y., Yeh, P. J., & Chu, S. M. (2021). Serum Trace Element Levels and Their Correlation with Picky Eating Behavior, Development, and Physical Activity in Early Childhood. Nutrients, 13(7), 2295.
4. Taylor, C. M., Northstone, K., Wernimont, S. M., & Emmett, P. M. (2016). Macro-and micronutrient intakes in picky eaters: a cause for concern?. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 104(6), 1647-1656.