What Happened to “An Apple a Day?”- The Vitamin Dilemma

apple healthA recent report by CNN saying that vitamins are a waste of money has caused quite a stir. The news story quoted a study from the Annals of Internal Medicine stating that using supplements and multivitamins does not prevent chronic disease. The vitamin and supplement industry rakes in almost $12 billion every year according to research. That buys A LOT of organic fruits and vegetables!

But the vitamin issue is far from clear. The recent editorial entitled “Enough is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements,” is based on three large studies which concluded that taking multivitamins did not prevent mortality in any way, had no beneficial effect on preventing cardiovascular diseases or cancer, and did not improve mental function in men older than 65. But what does this mean? And what about kids?

When parents ask me “should my child take a multivitamin? “I always ask: why? What are you trying to accomplish by taking a vitamin yourself or giving one to your child? Is it because they are picky eaters? Or because they’re athletes and need extra vitamins and minerals? Does your child have a chronic condition? Is your family on a restrictive diet like vegetarian or vegan?

I am not here to try to convince you one way or another, I believe these are personal parental decisions and no one (not even your own child’s pediatrician) should be making it for you. What I will do is give you some objective information on vitamins and minerals.

The ABCs of Vitamins and Minerals:

Vitamin

Function

Natural Sources

Vitamin A

Promotes normal growth and development, healthy eyes, skin and immune response

Milk, cheese, eggs, yellow/orange vegetables like carrots, squash and yams.

Vitamin B complex (B2,B3,B6, and B12)

Aid in metabolism, energy production and healthy nervous system

Meat, chicken, fish, nuts, eggs, milk cheese, beans and soybeans

Vitamin C

Promotes healthy muscles, connective tissue and skin

Citrus fruit, strawberries, kiwi, tomatoes, broccoli

Vitamin D

Promotes bone and tooth formation and helps body absorb calcium. Important for the immune system.

Best source is sunlight! Also found in fortified dairy products, eggs yolks and fish oil

Calcium

Builds strong bones as a child grows.

Milk, cheese, yogurt, tofu, fortified OJ

Iron

Builds muscle and is essential to healthy red blood cells. Female adolescents at risk

Red meat, spinach, turkey, pork, beans and prunes

 

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As you can see, there are plenty of foods that provide these essential vitamins and minerals.

So I say “Eat Your Vitamins People! (In food, that is!)”

But a few questions remain:

Which Kids Do Require Extra Vitamin and Mineral Supplementation?

  • Kids with certain chronic medical conditions or food allergies
  • Babies with Failure to Thrive (poor weight gain)
  • Exclusively breastfeed infants
  • Children on a vegetarian, vegan or dairy-free diet
  • Children with poor eating habits

What About Young Athletes?

Athletes are always searching for an edge over the competition. Extra vitamins, minerals, protein supplements and electrolyte replacement drinks are all commonly used by young athletes everywhere. Most experts do agree, however, that it is not unreasonable to provide some “normal nutritional support” in the form of a multivitamin with calcium and vitamin D.

Is there a Danger in Taking Vitamins and Minerals?

There can be. Some vitamins, mainly fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K,  can be toxic if taken in large amounts. Same goes for iron. It is also important to keep in mind that vitamins, minerals and other supplements are not regulated by the FDA and may be contaminated with undesirable substances. Make sure you buy your vitamins from a reputable source and that they are natural and food-based.

Bottom Line: It is always best to get your vitamins and minerals from food, real food. Extra vitamins and minerals will never compensate for a poor diet. With that said, most Americans have been found to be somewhat deficient in one vitamin or another, so if it makes you feel better, especially with that picky eater, buy a decent one and by all means go for it!

What to Look for in a Multivitamin? make sure the vitamin is food-based, has recognizable ingredients and has no added sugar!  Consult with your pediatrician or health care provider for recommendations of reputable sources

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2 Responses to “What Happened to “An Apple a Day?”- The Vitamin Dilemma”

  1. Peter Anthony langevin

    Wow! Another great article. Where have you been all these years.

    Our family is very big on supplements. It is something that was inbreed from a early age.

    I have been literally screaming from the mountain tops about all the foods you mentioned in this article. We need more of this stuff, keep up the great work!

    Lastly, SODA! My son has gotten by on water for his whole life. Until he sees his whole team hit the coke machine after a game. Now he has a huge and sudden liking for the stuff. This is our biggest problem at the moment.

    We need soda control!

    • jacq

      Thank you and I’m glad you find the information useful! Yes, agree 100% soda is one of the worst evils in this country, and has NO place in youth sports! Sounds like I need to come out and speak to the team!

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