Dietary supplement use widespread among U.S. youth

NEW YORK Mon Oct 1, 2007 4:35pm EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A study published Monday suggests that more than 30 percent of American children take dietary supplements daily -- most often multivitamins and multiminerals.

"Dietary supplements provide a consistent daily source of nutrients for nearly one-third of U.S. children, yet individual and national-level estimates of nutrient intake rarely account for them," researchers note in a report in the October issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

"Given such extensive use, nutrient intakes from dietary supplements must be included to obtain accurate estimates of overall nutrient intake in children," Dr. Mary Frances Picciano, of the Office of Dietary Supplements at the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, and colleagues conclude.

In an analysis of data on 10,136 children aged 18 or younger participating in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (1999-2002), they discovered that 31.8 percent had used dietary supplements in the past month.

This included 11.9 percent of infants younger than 1 year, 38.4 percent of children age 1 to 3 years, 40.6 percent of 4- to 8-year-olds, 28.9 percent of 9- to 13-year-olds, and 25.7 percent of 14- to 18-year olds.

Multivitamin and multimineral supplements were by far the most common dietary supplement used (18.3 percent), followed by single vitamins (4.2 percent), single minerals (2.4 percent) and botanicals (0.8 percent).

Picciano and colleagues also found that children who reported having taken supplements in the previous month took them regularly, with more than half having taken a supplement 30 times in the past month and more than 60 percent having taken supplements for at least 1 year.

Children who were on the thin side were more apt to take dietary supplements regularly than were children who were heavier. Children from "higher" income families were also more apt to pop a multivitamin or multimineral daily.

The researchers also report that more non-Hispanic white and Mexican American children (38.3 percent and 22.4 percent, respectively) used supplements than non-Hispanic black children (18.8 percent).

SOURCE: Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, October 2007.

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