February 2, 2009 / 10:44 PM / 10 years ago

Kids most in need least likely to take vitamins

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Children and teenagers who face the greatest risk of nutritional deficiencies tend to use vitamin and mineral supplements the least, researchers reported Monday.

Among 10,828 US children ages 2 to 17 years old who participated in the 1999 to 2004 United States National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, roughly 34 percent had used vitamin and mineral supplements in the past month.

“We hypothesized,” Dr. Ulfat Shaikh told Reuters Health, “that children who had poor diets (low vegetable intake, low milk intake, high fat intake, low fiber intake), faced food insecurity, had less physical activity and poor access to health care, would use such supplements more.”

“What we found was for the most part the opposite of what we expected,” said Shaikh from University of California Davis School of Medicine, Sacramento.

“Other than children who were underweight (we did expect these children to use more vitamin and mineral supplements and found this to be true from the data), children who used vitamin and mineral supplements were for the most part healthier, had more nutritious diets, greater physical activity, lower sedentary activity, lower obesity, lower food insecurity and better health care access,” Shaikh noted.

“Their parents additionally reported them to be in better health than children who did not use such supplements.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend vitamin and mineral supplements for healthy children older than 1 year who consume a varied diet, Shaikh and colleagues note in a report in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

“Our data,” Shaikh warned, “indicate that families with children who may benefit from these supplements appear to have limited resources and competing financial demands that prevent them from using them.”

SOURCE: Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, February 2009.

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