Is Junior getting the right dose of vitamins?

NEW YORK - Vitamin supplements are meant to make up for what may be lacking in one's diet, but a new study has found that children in the United States may not be getting some of the most needed nutrients from their vitamin pills, and that the kids taking vitamins may not be the ones who need them the most.

Looking at the diet and supplement use of over 7,000 kids, researchers found that, between the ages of nine and 18, many had low levels of certain vitamins and minerals, with few taking supplements, while younger kids had adequate levels of most nutrients, and were possibly getting too much of some vitamins and minerals.

For instance, most kids under eight got the nutrition they needed from the food they ate, the study found, regardless of whether they took supplements.

However, even with the use of supplements, more than a third of children failed to get enough calcium and vitamin D. Sometimes, users got too much of essential nutrients such as iron and vitamin A.

Zinc and folate were consumed to excess across all age groups, while calcium and vitamin D consumption often fell below recommended levels, even among kids who took supplements.

"This is unfortunate," said Dr Regan Bailey, a nutritional epidemiologist at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, who led the study, which was published in The Journal Of Pediatrics.

"Calcium and vitamin D are critical during this age for bone growth and development."

But the bottom line was that supplements helped for some kids who would have been deficient in some vitamins and minerals, said Dr Bailey.

"For older children, taking supplements added nutrients for which intake would have been inadequate from food alone," she said.

The findings suggest that makers of children's vitamins should consider reformulating their products to better match kids' needs and modern diets.

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