Many parents swear by the vitamin supplements that they give their children. With kids being some of the pickiest eaters, it makes sense that parents would worry about whether they’re getting the right amount of nutrients. But a study now finds that parents who are giving vitamins to young children and infants may be giving more than the recommended amount.
Although it was a simple study — researchers only looked at supplement labels and compared them to recommendations — researchers found that all of the supplements except for one contained vitamin doses higher than the recommended daily allowance (RDA). Determined by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), a non-profit organization that advises policymakers, RDAs are meant to inform consumers about how much of a certain nutrient their body needs.
For the study, researchers looked at 21 supplements for use among infants under 12 months old, and 172 supplements meant for children between 12 months and 4 years old. Specifically, they studied vitamins A, C, D, E, K, and B12, as well as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, biotin, and choline, LiveScience reported. Vitamin D was the only one that appeared at or below RDA. Meanwhile, average levels for other vitamins ranged much higher: Vitamin A, thiamin, and riboflavin were about 300 percent higher than the RDA, while vitamin C levels for the older group’s vitamins were about 500 percent higher, and biotin levels were about 900 percent higher.
While these levels may be high, there isn’t much evidence to support that children who take them are putting themselves at risk. One study from last November found that excessive vitamin B12 levels — found in fish, eggs, meat, and dairy — in adults put them at risk for cancer. Nevertheless, with little other evidence, the IOM has its RDAs in place for a reason: Children just might not be able to handle excessive amounts of vitamins.
Duffy MacKay, senior vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs at the Council for Responsible Nutrition, however, said that “there’s a reason why some vitamins would contain more than the RDA,” noting that some children might lack proper amounts of the vitamin, Reuters reported. And although that could be true, other experts say that simply eating the right foods can help children balance out their nutrition too. “I think parents should take a look at the product label and they should assess the levels with the daily recommended amounts,” MacKay told Reuters, “and go into the health care provider and have a dialogue.”
Source: Madden M, DeBias D, Cook G. Market Analysis of Vitamin Supplementation in Infants and Children: Evidence From the Dietary Supplement Label Database. JAMA Pediatrics. 2014.