Many US children have insufficient vitamin intakes

July 20, 2012

A new US study has shown that for children over the age of 8, dietary supplements add micronutrients to diets that would otherwise be deficient in vitamins A, C, and E. On the other hand, supplement use also contributes to the potential risk of taking above the recommended doses of certain nutrients.

To examine if children (2-18 years) use supplements to fill gaps in nutritionally inadequate diets, or whether supplements contribute to already adequate micronutrient intakes from food, the study analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2003-2006, a nationally representative, cross-sectional survey (1). The diets of 7250 children were assessed using two 24-hour recalls, and dietary supplement use was assessed by 30-day questionnaire. The study results showed that supplement users had higher micronu-trient intakes than non-users. Across all age groups, taking supplements improved calcium intake and intake of vitamins A, C, D and E. Nonetheless, calcium and vitamin D intakes were low for all children regardless of supplement use, with more than a third of children failing to get sufficient intakes. Intakes of folate, vitamins B6 and B12 and selenium were sufficient from food alone among 2-8 year olds, while most of those who did not take supplements failed to get an adequate intake of calcium and vitamins D and E. Among 9-18 year olds, a higher prevalence of inadequate intakes of magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamins A, C, and E was observed. Dietary supplements added micronutrients to diets that would otherwise have been inadequate but on the other hand, supplement use contributed potential excessive intakes of nutrients such as zinc, folate, iron and vitamin A.

The researchers concluded that for some children who would otherwise have been deficient in certain vitamins and minerals, supplements were beneficial. Particularly for older children, taking supplements added nutrients to a diet where vitamin intake would have been inadequate from food alone. At the same time, supplements were shown to contribute to the potential risk of micronutrient overloading. Manufacturers of children's vitamins should therefore consider reformulating their products to better match the needs and diets of the modern child.


  1. Bailey R. L. et al. Do dietary supplements improve micronutrient sufficiency in children and adolescents? The Journal of Pediatrics. Published online July 2012.