Consumer News

Dietary Supplements For Kids: Boon Or Bane?

With 6.1 million children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), more parents are giving their children melatonin and Omega-3 fatty acids to help them sleep better. Rarely do they take note of the side effects beforehand since the supplements used to treat ADHD are associated with cardiovascular problems. This is not negligent parental behavior, largely due to the lack of awareness among regular people and the U.S. goverment. 

No Regulation

The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) has seen a rise in the number of young athletes trying to replenish themselves by taking dietary supplements. Jennifer Royer, TrueSport and Athlete Education Director, told The Washington Post that the current poor regulation in place allows the manufacturing of supplements with hazardous ingredients. 

Manufacturers are only required to notify the FDA before marketing a supplement after a rule was introduced in October 15, 1994, while providing an explanation for the safety of the product. This regulation does not say that FDA approval or testing is needed prior to marketing. However, when it comes to the post-marketing phase, the manufacturers are only required to notify the FDA in case of any serious adverse events including death and disability.

33.2 Percent of Children Take Dietary Supplements

The absence of strict regulation is negatively impacting the health of children who take supplements. A study conducted by The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that 33.2 percent of children in the U.S. take dietary supplements. Researchers applied data from National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) to arrive at the figure, according to the study published by the journal in 2018. 

Multivitamins such as iron, calcium, fish oil, vitamin D and herbal supplements are popularly consumed by children today, though they have been associated with adverse events for over a decade. In fact, parents who take vitamins and minerals are more likely to put their children on to the same course. This is regardless of the 23,000 visits made by adults and children to the emergency ward as a result of consuming supplements, Medical Daily had previously reported. 

Pills Dietary supplements do not go through the FDA regulation process, leaving their safety and efficacy unclear. UIC Today Media Library

Children Frequent Emergency Wards to Deal With Side Effects

According to data analyzed by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 63 emergency departments across the U.S. from 2004 to 2013, the number of visits for adverse events related to micronutrients increased from 3,212 in 2004-2005 to 4,578 in 2012-2013. The emergencies were cardiovascular trouble like palpitations and chest pain, swallowing, allergic reactions, excessive dosage and choking.  

Unsupervised consumption of supplements by children accounted for one-fifth (21 percent) of the visits to the emergency ward, and two thirds of the pills were micronutrients. Child-resistant packaging that is mandatory for prescription drugs, over-the-counter medication and cigarettes is not used for dietary supplements, with the sole exception of iron.

Despite the safety measure in place, iron supplements were the second most number of pills consumed by unsupervised children. The study recommends, “Innovative safety packaging and targeted education on safe storage are potential interventions to reduce unsupervised child ingestions of supplements.”

Similarly, CBS News’ medical commentator, Dr David Agus, warned of several consequences to the heart and liver. He advised against taking probiotics since it could cause a problem for the good gut bacteria and muscle stimulatants that lead to cardiac arrhythmias. Instead of taking pills, Agus said that eating the right food, exercising, studying and maintaining a sleep schedule will benefit the child more. "There's not a pill to get around the work it takes to succeed," Agus added.