News & Media

29 August 2017

Myth busting: do kids really need to take children’s vitamins?

They’re the gummy, sugar-covered vitamins that children love and parents hope give their kids’ health an added boost. But are they really helping kids stay healthy?

Myth busting: do kids really need to take children’s vitamins?

Australian parents are spending about $74 million a year on children’s vitamins and supplements, with half of all children and teens taking them.

We’ve compiled advice from several nutritional and health experts to uncover if children’s vitamins really are a sweet health solution. What we discovered is that many find the claims hard to swallow.

Can children’s gummy vitamins actually help children boost their immunity and health?

“Absolutely not. The majority of children taking vitamin supplements have never had their vitamin levels in the blood tested, and if they did, would very likely not be deficient. There is no evidence that vitamins ‘boost’ the immune system. I have concerns that children with normal vitamin levels are taking supplements, which might increase their levels to be toxic with subsequent side effects, and be harmful to health.”

Dr Scott Dunlop, Consultant Paediatrician at Sydney Paediatrics.

“Vitamin supplements, targeted at kids, especially the gummies are generally very sweet, really fun packaging and tasty. Ironically, sugar depletes your child’s immune system, so these gummies will be doing more harm than good.

“They are full of sugar and other additives. The amount of actual vitamins and minerals in these is too tiny, not enough to be therapeutic.”

Lisa Moane, Holistic Nutritionist and Food Scientist

“These gummy products give mixed messages to children that because they look like lollies, then lollies in general are healthy. We should really be teaching our kids about eating healthy with real food.”

Cinzia Cozzolino, Nutritionist

What should you do if you’re concerned about your child’s vitamin intake?

“If a child’s diet is not providing adequate complete nourishment then supplementing with the missing nutrient can benefit their growth and development. It is important to first assess if there is a deficit by taking a diet history and comparing the child’s food intake with the serves required according to their age and gender. Once a deficit has been highlighted, such as a lack of iron if they don’t consume iron rich foods such as meat, chicken, fish eggs or legumes, or a lack of Omega 3 DHA and EPA because they don’t consume fish, then a supplement can be pinpointed to fill the gap.”

Kate Di Prima, paediatric dietician

For children without a balanced, healthy diet, is there some value in taking vitamins?

“Vitamin D deficiency can happen if children don’t get enough sun exposure, so Vitamin D supplements may be helpful in this case. Low Vitamin D is more prevalent in children with darker skin and in babies who are breastfed long-term by a mum who has low Vitamin D. In addition, children who have a chronic disease, a growth problem, or a restricted diet may be at risk of various vitamin and mineral deficiencies – advice from your doctor or paediatrician is recommended in these cases.”

Dr Aifric Boylan, Director of Qoctor

“The most common deficiency I see in children without a balanced diet is iron deficiency, and less so Vitamin D deficiency. Low iron levels can impair appetite, so brief use of an iron supplement under medical guidance can be effective. The role of Vitamin D has also become trendy in recent years, with many children and adults found to be deficient. We usually replace that deficiency with a supplement, but again, there isn’t decisive evidence to say that is or isn’t necessary.”

Dr Scott Dunlop, Consultant Paediatrician at Sydney Paediatrics.

Remember, this is just general health advice. If you have questions or concerns about your specific