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Kids Who Take Vitamins May Not Need Them

Study Shows Active Kids on Healthy Diets Are More Likely to Take Vitamins
By Caroline Wilbert
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Feb. 2, 2009 -- About one-third of American children and teens have taken supplemental vitamins in the past month, and most don't need them, according to a new study. And the children who need the vitamins the least -- those with varied diets, active lifestyles, and better access to health care -- are the most likely to take them.

The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn't recommend supplemental vitamins for healthy children over the age of 1 who have a varied diet.

The study was published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Researchers from the University of California Davis School of Medicine and University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry analyzed data on more than 10,000 children and teens 2-17 who participated in the 1999-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

As part of the study, parents filled out questionnaires and participated in interviews. Children and teens received medical examinations. About 34% of the kids had taken vitamins in the past month.

Although the researchers found that the greatest use of vitamin supplements was in underweight children, the study also shows that children who were more active, ate a healthier diet, and had better access to health care were more likely to be taking vitamins.

Children who received health care from a community health center or emergency room were less likely to use vitamin supplements compared to those who received health care from a doctor's office.

"Our study indicates that children and adolescents who may face the greatest risks for VM [vitamin and mineral] deficiencies, such as those with less healthy nutrition and activity patterns, greater obesity, lower income, lower food security, poorer health, and lower health care access, use VM supplements the least," Ulfat Shaikh, MD, MPH, and colleagues conclude.

The researchers recommend that health care providers screen children and make recommendations about whether or not vitamins are needed on an individual basis. Supplemental vitamins are often recommended for children with specific needs, such as children who have chronic diseases, eating disorders, difficulty absorbing nutrients, liver disease, or are obese and on a weight loss program.

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