Into the Mouths of Babes
Choosing the Right Supplements for Your Kids
Due to the nutritional limitations of picky eating, many children miss out on an array of nutrients essential to their changing needs. In these cases, supplementing makes sense. Here’s our roundup of the most important supplements for your growing child.
Probiotic supplements have taken off in the last decade. In the gut, probiotics are the “good” bacteria that may help improve digestion, immune defense, and even metabolism. Children are especially responsive to probiotics. Some research shows that giving kids probiotics may reduce respiratory and gastrointestinal infections—and if diarrhea strikes, probiotics may clear it up a day or two faster. Typical dosages vary based on the product, but common dosages range from 5 to 10 billion colony-forming units per day for children.
A multivitamin covers a large nutritional spectrum to fill in the gaps of any picky eater. According to the USDA, fewer than half of children consume the recommended number of servings in any given food pyramid group. And while most children would benefit from a multivitamin, the kids who need supplements the most tend to be underweight (meaning their body mass index is in the lowest 5% for their age and sex.) A good multivitamin will include at least 600 IU of vitamin D, which promotes bone and tooth formation and helps the body absorb calcium.Still on the fence on whether your child needs to pop a multi? A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition showed that children 8 to 14 who used daily multivitamin and mineral supplements for 4 to 12 weeks showed improved accuracy in attention-based tasks, along with improved cognition and mood. Another study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that out of the 2,423 children who participated, those who supplemented with multivitamins at or before four years of age reduced their risk of food and seasonal allergies by 39%.
Essential fatty acids from fish keep your child’s brain running like a well-oiled machine by providing the good omega-3 fats that support cognitive function. Most recently, a 2013 study out of Oxford University examined possible links between low omega-3s in children and poor learning and behavior. The study’s co-author, Paul Montomery, Ph.D, reported, “we found that levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood significantly predicted a child’s behavior and ability to learn.” Kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may have lower levels of omega-3s in their bodies than normal, and preliminary research suggests that the supplements might improve behavior, reduce hyperactivity, and boost attention in kids under 12. The recommended daily dose of omega-3 depends on the age and medical condition of the child. For children over four, the recommended dose is at least 600 mg per day. For best results, consult with the child’s doctor or other healthcare provider.