Do Your Kids Need Vitamins?

It's always a good idea to give your kids vitamins, right?

Well, according to a new study by pediatrician Dr. Ulfat Shaikh at UC Davis School of Medicine, health doesn't have much to do with why kids take vitamins ... but poverty does:

Researchers derived the information from an analysis of National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey results from 1999 to 2004. They found that about one-third of American children ages 2 to 17 had used a vitamin or mineral supplement within the previous month, but that most of them did not need to supplement their diet.

On the other hand, children who used vitamins the least tended to be at greatest risk for nutritional deficits. They did not eat as well as the children who were taking supplements, lived in low-income families that were short of food and had less access to health care, the study found.

“Poverty seems to be the overriding factor,” Dr. Shaikh said. Although supplements may not seem expensive to a middle-class family, the cost may be onerous for a low-income family, she said. “Parents who were poor were perhaps unable to afford supplements.”

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All I know is that before I started taking V-C in mega doses, (2-10 grams per day) I got really bad colds 3 to 5 times a year. Now I have had only one cold in the last 9 years. I don't ever get sick. I canceled my expensive health insurance, and got dropped by my doctor because I haven't been there for 15 years. (not counting going in for a knuckle x-ray 11 years ago)
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Cochrane reviews are good for looking at this kind of stuff. These are high-quality meta-analyses of the available data on all kinds of medical interventions. The Cochrane Review on Anti-oxidant supplements is particularly interesting. It concluded that "Vitamin A, beta-carotene, and vitamin E may increase mortality."

So taking vitamins (or at least vitamin A or E) without any particular need for supplementation may actually be bad for you. There's poor evidence for the use of many other vitamins for people who don't have any particular deficiency.
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