There are many viruses circulating. Should I give my child a multivitamin to help him stay healthy?
Should children be given multivitamins? “In the vast majority of cases, no,” says pharmacy owner Jan Gosselin-Gaudreau. He adds that a varied diet can meet the vitamin and mineral needs of healthy children. Taking supplements doesn’t do them any good, even if the body will excrete vitamins and minerals that it doesn’t need to function. “Supplementing is not good practice, on the contrary. It’s like encouraging them to walk with a crutch! The main thing is to eat well,” he says, emphasizing the importance of developing taste in babies.
>> Read also: Eight main principles of a healthy diet
Josian Cyr, a pediatric nutritionist, also recommends against taking supplements in general. “Without much apprehension, a parent may find it reassuring to give it to their child. It’s not harmful, she says. However, subject to compliance with the dosage. There is no question of doubling or tripling doses under the pretense that Junior is taking supplements instead of candy!
A nutritionist identifies several situations where it is more difficult for a child to meet their vitamin and mineral needs through food:
- Selective eaters who refuse certain categories of foods, such as fruits and vegetables, or meat and its substitutes (poultry, legumes, eggs, fish, tofu).
- Small eaters that eat everything in very small quantities.
- Vegetarian children, and even more so vegans: “A vegetarian child with a varied diet has everything he needs, and it doesn’t bother him at all,” she says. But if the child is a vegan, it is highly recommended to meet with a nutritionist to make sure that he is getting all the necessary nutrients. »
- Children with allergies are deprived of several nutritious foods every day.
- Children with anemia.
“In these specific situations, it is useful to evaluate the child’s nutrition before making a decision to supplement,” says Josian Cyr. In some cases, multivitamin supplements can be a good precaution. But be careful, she warns: “Gummies usually don’t help, as most of them contain no iron at all. » More often than not, a specific vitamin or mineral supplement is more appropriate for a child’s specific needs.
If you have concerns about your child’s diet or growth, you can talk to a doctor who can do a blood test or a dietitian, many of whom work in the private sector. You can also get a referral to a dietitian, for example through CLSC.
What about vitamin D?
“If there is one vitamin that should be given to children, especially in winter, it is vitamin D,” recommends Josiane Cyr. Health Canada estimates a daily requirement of 600 IU for children over one year of age and 400 IU for infants. But many Quebecers — young and old — have suboptimal amounts or deficiencies, according to the nutritionist.
Vitamin D promotes the fixation of calcium in the bones, and hence their growth. “We are also discovering more and more of the role it plays in the immune system,” adds Josian Cyr. With all these viruses around us, it’s really important to be interested in them, for both kids and adults! However, studies have not established a clear link between taking vitamin D supplements and improving the immune system.
This vitamin is produced by the body when exposed to sunlight (which explains why it is deficient in winter). It can also come from food:
- Few foods naturally contain vitamin D. These include eggs and oily fish (salmon, arctic char, rainbow trout, etc.), which the WHO recommends eating two servings per week.
- Vitamin D is also fortified in other foods, such as cow’s milk, margarine, or some plant-based drinks. However, a child must consume more than 1.5 liters of milk per day to cover his needs: not only is this unrealistic, but more than twice the maximum recommended amount of milk, i.e. 750 ml per day!
Health Canada recommends giving a daily supplement of 400 IU of vitamin D to children whose diets are insufficiently rich in vitamin D, as well as to children who are exclusively breastfed (infant formulas already contain the supplement).