Vitamins and minerals in children


  • Health
  • Sunday, 26 Nov 2006

CHILDREN don’t always manage to consume nutritious, wholesome foods their bodies require for optimal growth and development.  

Apart from inadequate diet, there are other reasons why children should take a good multivitamin and mineral supplement. For example, processed food contains lower nutrient value. Stress and polluted water and air increase the body’s requirement for nutrients.  

Children from birth to age 12 need vitamins and minerals to promote normal growth and development. Supplements improve their health, prevent diseases and also help them to perform better academically. 

Lack of vitamins and minerals erodes brainpower. Studies have found that children who take daily multivitamin and minerals showed an increase in their non-verbal intelligence scores. Non-verbal intelligence is closely associated with academic performance1.  

Furthermore, research has shown that obesity, heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and cancer in adults often result from nutritional deficiency during childhood.  

Good nutrition is critical for the future health of our children. Children who are well nourished with optimal intake of vitamins and minerals can grow into healthy and happy adults. 

 

Minerals are as important as vitamins 

All mothers know vitamins are important for children’s health. Vitamins offer many health benefits, but all the vitamins in the world will do little good without minerals. Without an adequate supply of minerals in the body, vitamins are unable to fulfil their roles and other biochemical functions are compromised. 

It is absolutely crucial that children get enough calcium, chromium, magnesium, iodine, iron, zinc, copper, selenium, manganese and molybdenum everyday. Unfortunately most children are not getting the recommended amounts of these vital minerals. 

Most chewable vitamins for children in the market contain very little minerals. The taste of minerals is not appealing. Magnesium, iodine, copper, and iron are probably the worst tasting. It is not an easy task to mask the metallic taste of the minerals in the chewable multivitamin/mineral formula.  

This may be the reason why most children’s chewable contain only vitamins and no minerals. Even if they do contain minerals, they are usually inadequate and far below the daily recommended amount.  

Xylitol is a safe, natural sweetener that can overcome this problem, and without the adverse side-effects of sugar and artificial substitutes. It is derived mainly from birch tree bark. Xylitol has been approved by USFDA and also by JECFA (Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives of two United Nations agencies, FAO and WHO).  

Xylitol reverses all the destructive effects of sugar on oral health. Bacteria are particularly fond of foods containing sugars and carbohydrates. These foods provide bacteria with the energy to grow, reproduce, and create enamel-eating acid.  

Xylitol on the other hand is non-fermentable and therefore cannot be converted to acids by oral bacteria. Thus it helps to restore a proper alkaline/acid balance in the mouth. This alkaline environment is inhospitable to all the destructive bacteria, especially the worst variety, Streptococcus mutans. It also inhibits plaque formation. 

A study conducted at Harvard School of Dental Medicine concluded that: “Xylitol can significantly decrease the incidence of dental caries.”2 In summary, xylitol not only prevents decay, but actually promotes strong, healthy teeth. 

How much vitamins and minerals do your children need a day to stay healthy? Like adults, children should try to get 100% “Daily Values” (DVs) levels of vitamins and minerals. 100% DVs of vitamins and minerals refer to the minimum recommended amounts of intake a day to ensure normal growth and development. (Note: DVs are American standards, not Malaysian.) Too low levels will not provide the same benefits.  

Hence when buying a multivitamin and minerals supplement for children, always check the label to see if it contains all the required vitamins and minerals that meet the 100% DVs or at least close to it.         

References: 

1. Schoenthaler SJ, Bier ID, Young K, Nichols D, Jansenns S. The effect of vitamin-mineral supplementation on the intelligence of American schoolchildren: a randomized, doubleblind placebo-controlled trial. J Altern Complement Med. 2000;6:19-29. 

2. Hayes, Catherine, DMD; DMSc. The effect of non-cariogenic sweeteners on the prevention of dental caries: A review of evidence. Harvard School of Dental Medicine. http://www.lib.umich.edu/dentlib/nihcdc/abstracts/hayes.htmlInternet website.  

  • This article is courtesy of Pahang Pharmacy. For more information, e-mail starhealth@thestar.com.my. The information provided is for educational purposes only and should not be considered as medical advice. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information. 

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