Researchers found that in all but one case, the
average vitamin content of those supplements exceeded what's
"What we did is compare what's on the labels for (children's
vitamins) to the recommended daily allowance or adequate intake,"
Michael Madden told Reuters Health.
Madden is the study's lead author from the Lake Erie College of
Osteopathic Medicine in Erie, Pennsylvania.
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) or adequate intake of vitamins
is set by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), which provides
independent advice to U.S. policymakers.
The RDA is the amount of a certain nutrient the average person
should consume daily to meet the body's needs.
For the new study, Madden and his colleagues pulled information from
labels of dietary supplements from a government database in July
They reviewed the labels of 21 supplements intended for use among
infants younger than 12 months old and 172 supplements intended for
use among kids between 12 months and four years old.
Overall, the researchers looked at nine individual vitamins in the
supplements intended for infants and 14 vitamins in the supplements
intended for older kids.
They found vitamin D was the only vitamin that wasn't listed in
amounts above the RDA in products made for both age groups.
The average vitamin C level in the supplements was about equal to
the RDA for kids younger than 12 months old. But in supplements made
for older children, vitamin C levels were about five times the
Biotin, a vitamin that helps turn food into fuel, is often taken
with hopes of making skin, hair and nails healthier. The researchers
found the average amount of biotin in children's supplements was
between five and nine times the RDA.
They note in JAMA Pediatrics that the IOM recommends children not
exceed the RDA for many of the vitamins included in the study.
The IOM says there are not enough data about potential side effects
among children in those age groups for some vitamins and that kids
should get those vitamins from food.
Duffy MacKay, however, said the IOM recommendations have not been
updated in several years. Also, the new study did not distinguish
between multivitamins and supplements that contain a single vitamin.
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MacKay is senior vice president of scientific and regulatory
affairs at the Council for Responsible Nutrition, a trade
association representing dietary supplement manufacturers and
ingredient suppliers, in Washington, D.C.
"There are reasons why some of the vitamins would contain more than
the RDA," he said. For instance, single vitamin supplements could be
made for kids who are deficient in that particular vitamin.
He also pointed out that the new research is based on a survey of
supplement labels and did not identify or associate any health
concerns with the use of the children's products.
"I think parents should take a look at the product label and they
should assess the levels with the daily recommended amounts and go
into the healthcare provider and have a dialogue," MacKay, who was
not involved with the new study, said.
Dr. Paul Offit, chief of infectious diseases at Children's Hospital
of Philadelphia, cautioned that the new study assumes the supplement
labels are correct.
"That may not be true," he said, adding that his own hospital has
found large inconsistencies on supplement labels.
Offit, who was not involved with the new research, also said RDAs
tend to be overestimates of what the average person needs and
parents should make every effort to get their children the vitamins
and nutrients they need in the food they eat.
"Be very careful about what you put in your child's mouth," he said.
"You know that if you have a reasonable diet you should get the
vitamins and nutrients you need."
Madden said it is a good idea for parents to talk with their
children's doctors before giving them vitamins.
JAMA Pediatrics, online Jan. 27, 2014.
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