Multivitamins for kids are used to cover nutritional bases and fill the gaps for persons under the age of 18. They are some of the most commonly purchased and consumed supplements in the entire country (not to mention the world), with more than one-third of all Americans take some sort of dietary multivitamin (1, 2).
They count as 40% of all sales that take place for the category of vitamins and dietary supplements (3).
According to one 2010 study published in the Archives of Pediatrics, 34% of all children and adolescents (an age group ranging from 2 to 17 years old) took vitamin and mineral supplements of some variety (4).
Yet despite their popularity, there is essentially no official definition or regulation regarding what a multivitamin/mineral (MVM) supplement is, which ingredients it contains and in what portions, or how it should be labeled regarding potential health benefits for kids (5).
The multivitamin market is a huge mix of different combinations, all with slightly different intended benefits and usages. As such, there is a wide range of possible benefits, depending on the exact formulation. Most standard multivitamins for kids should contain vitamins B and C (folate, vitamin B12, biotin, thiamine, B6, etc.), fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K, and essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, and potassium (6).
1Multivitamins for kids can improve the bioavailability and intake of hard-to-get micronutrients. Dietary supplements like multivitamins are commonly used by people who feel that their diet isn’t quite sufficient enough, or for those who want to bolster their healthiness (7).
A 1986 study found that multivitamin users have higher levels of nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C, and calcium, which aren’t always easy to get from your diet. (8).
Athletes, or active kids, may see an additional benefit to taking multivitamin supplements in order to ensure they’re getting an entire range of the necessary nutrients available (9).
2Multivitamins for kids can help dietary insufficiency. Nutrient deficiency is not only responsible for the highest mortality rate among children worldwide, but may also lead to impairment in terms of cognitive performance (i.e., lower test scores in school and lower academic achievement in general), changes in the nervous system, and more (10).
Children’s multivitamins can assist children who don’t have a proper diet due to socioeconomic factors, location, pickiness, or any other reason. Multivitamins can help supplement a normal diet’s gaps and prevent the onset of sicknesses like osteoporosis, anemia, and other viral conditions (11).
Proper nutrition is particularly important for children, as it can impact not only their current health but also their development into adolescence and even adulthood (12).
3Multivitamins can fill the gaps of a predominantly vegan or vegetarian diet. For vegans and vegetarian kids, getting certain kinds of vitamins and minerals is harder than usual because of the lack of an animal-based diet. Vitamin B12 and vitamin D, for instance, are two elements most vegans need to be careful about maintaining in their dietary intake (13).
This is even true for vegetarians as well. Getting adequate amounts of protein, zinc, iron, and other essential minerals can be difficult without careful planning and a well-rounded diet (14).
Most common varieties of multivitamins for kids provide these minerals and micronutrients and can be used by vegans or vegetarians to aid in proper nutrition.
4Multivitamins can help children get the micronutrients often missed in a modern day diet or diseases. In one study from 2017, which was published in Nutrients, 153 patients with Anorexia Nervosa were surveyed. Almost half of all patients had at least one nutritional deficit, with the most common one being selenium at 40% of the study population (15).
Multivitamins are one treatment method that can be used to help patients meet nutritional goals when being treated for conditions such as Anorexia Nervosa (16).
A 2017 study suggests that dietary supplements such as multivitamins can help even as part of larger, more conventional treatment plans, or when patients aren’t responding well to treatment in the first place (17).
5Vitamin D can prevent rickets in children. A 2018 study showed that vitamin D deficiency is one of the most prevalent conditions among infants in a wide variety of different countries (18).
They spend more time indoors and get less sun exposure, so their bodies don’t produce as much vitamin D as older children and adults. One of the most important reasons for maintaining regular levels of vitamin D is to prevent rickets, which is a problem not only for children but for infants as well (19).
6Vitamin D helps to supercharge a kids immune system. Vitamin D is also an important part of the body’s immune system. In individuals who have autoimmune diseases, for example, immune cells have been shown to respond positively to vitamin D supplementation (20).
Furthermore, a 2013 study showed that vitamin D-metabolizing enzymes and vitamin D receptors have been shown to be present in immune cells like T-cells, B-cells, and monocytes (21).
Vitamin D seems particularly important to the way to the body regulates inflammatory responses and autoimmune diseases such as diabetes type I.
7Calcium helps kids build strings bones. Calcium, one of the most common ingredients in children’s multivitamins, is also one of the most important base ingredients for children to develop healthy bones (22).
Studies show that both calcium and regular exercise seem to be necessary for children to build bones that allow them to lead an active lifestyle into their adolescent years (23).
8Vitamin E can help kids develop proper cardiovascular health. A 2010 study showed that vitamin E supplementation has been linked with a lower rate of cardiovascular disease as well as overall mortality (24).
It may be particularly important for children who suffer from diabetes (25).
Vitamin E is sometimes used not only to treat chronic diseases such as cystic fibrosis in children but also to help with oxidative inflammation as a result of free radicals in the body (26).
9Vitamin K strengthens heart and bone health in kids. Vitamin K is important for children and adults in a number of different respects. A 2007 study showed that vitamin K contributed positively to bone density and to help prevent the occurrence of bone fractures (27).
It’s also particularly important for children who suffer from osteoporosis. It is theorized that vitamin K and vitamin D work together to contribute to bone density — which makes multivitamins a prime way to achieve a healthy skeletal system by getting adequate amounts of both at the same time (28).
10Multivitamins could help treat mental health conditions and disorders such as autism. Multivitamins are one of the most commonly-used treatments for children with autism (29).
It has been shown to have a positive effect on both the nutritional and metabolic state of children who have autism in comparison with placebo. A 2017 study showed that vitamin D (deficiency) may play a role in mental health issues that children and adolescents suffer from (30).
A deficiency in folic acid (vitamin B9) has also been linked with certain depressive factors and a lack of response to common antidepressant treatments (31).
Multivitamins which provide necessary dietary intake of such nutrients and minerals can be used as part of mental health treatment plans for the aforementioned conditions.
1There may be high sugar content in gummy multivitamins, offsetting some of their health effects. Gummy vitamins typically contain one or two grams of sugar per gummy.
While this isn’t necessarily enough to have a negative effect if only one is taken a day, abuse of gummy multivitamins or a combination with a diet high in sugar might negate any health benefits that children take them for, so choosing a variety which is sugar-free (or at least low on sugar) may be an important factor.
2It’s possible to overdose on fat-soluble vitamins such as Vitamin D. According to some studies, standard multivitamins for kids aren’t exact when it comes to the labeling of vitamin content (32).
As such, exceeding daily averages for certain components of multivitamins (such as fat-soluble vitamins) is possible, especially if combined with an unbalanced diet or with fortified foods that already provide those ingredients.
It’s best to keep vitamins out of reach of young children and discuss appropriate vitamin intake with older kids to prevent the accidental overeating of supplements.
1 serving per day of a multivitamin for kids is recommended for children. However, for bigger children who are very active (150 pounds or more) or children with special disorders may need additional servings.
Always discuss supplements with a healthcare provider before giving them to your child.
When choosing a supplement, look for quality brands that have have been tested by a third party, such as NSF International, United States Pharmacopeia (USP), ConsumerLab.com, Informed-Choice, or the Banned Substances Control Group (BSCG).
Not to mention, choose vitamins that are specifically made for kids and ensure that they don’t contain megadoses that exceed the daily nutrient needs for children.
What is the best multivitamin for kids formulation? There isn’t the best multivitamin formulation for all persons. The kind which is best for your kid will likely depend on your child’s individual case, dietary needs/restrictions, and a whole host of other factors. That said, choosing a good variety from a brand that you can trust is important; some reports have shown that gummy multivitamins don’t actually have as high a content of the vitamins as their labels say they do.
Do multivitamins have side effects? Many multivitamin products also contain minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc. Minerals (especially taken in large doses) can cause side effects such as tooth staining, increased urination, stomach bleeding, uneven heart rate, confusion, and muscle weakness or limp feeling.
Can a 1-year-old eat yogurt? Yes, yogurt can be consumed around 7-8 months of age.
Is it safe to give babies probiotics? Research indicates that probiotics are safe and well- tolerated in normal, healthy infants and children. Good tolerance has also been observed in premature infants, very low birth weight babies, and in HIV-infected children and adults. Probiotics are also safe to use in late pregnancy.
Are gummy or hard multivitamins for kids better? This may be a hard answer for your child to stomach, but hard vitamins are generally healthier than gummy multivitamins. The tasty gummies might contain large amounts of sugar despite their healthy-seeming package. High sugar intake has been linked to a wide variety of unpleasant health conditions, such as obesity, bad cardiovascular health, and possibly even certain mental health conditions such as depression (35).
A 2018 study published in the scientific journal Nature even found that parents often considerably underestimate their child’s total sugar intake, which may be a contributing factor in childhood obesity (36).
With all that in mind, however, a one-a-day children’s multivitamin probably won’t skyrocket your child’s sugar intake in any measurable respect. Accordingly, so long as the rest of their diet is relatively healthy, and they’re not taking an inordinate amount of the multivitamins, the sugar content shouldn’t lead to any noticeable health issues.
How often should my child take a multivitamin? Almost all common multivitamins will have dosing and frequency information on the label of the bottle or packet. If a multivitamin says that it’s meant to be taken once a day, it’s not a good idea to take it any more frequently than that, as it could lead to an overdose of certain kinds of vitamins which are not soluble in water, like Vitamin D, for example.
Is it possible to overdose on multivitamins for kids? While it’s not really possible to overdose on multivitamins, it’s definitely possible to overdose on their constituent ingredients. Fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A, D, and E, aren’t processed quite as easily as water-soluble vitamins like vitamin B12, for example (37).
As such, taking a truly excessive amount of multivitamins can lead to toxic levels of said ingredients, which is why following the dosing instructions on a bottle or packet of multivitamins is so important, even though they seem like relatively harmless supplements due to their packaging, and sweet taste.
Can I feed multivitamins to my infant? Infants can indeed be fed multivitamins. In fact, in some cases, it may be a necessary addition to a diet of breastmilk or baby food, as infants don’t always have a diet that’s as properly varied as it needs to be, especially if they don’t eat or drink a lot. Taking in vitamins A and C, for example, can be difficult for children from about 6 months to a few years old, and in some cases taking a dietary supplement is even recommended.
It’s important to note that your infant may be getting enough of said vitamins if they’re being fed with formula rather than breastmilk, as it’s often fortified with vitamin D and other necessary nutrients. In addition, it may be important to choose the right kind of multivitamins for infants, rather than trying to feed them one meant for older children.
Are vitamin D drops necessary for babies? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all babies receive routine vitamin D supplementation (400 IU per day) due to decreased sunlight exposure and an increase in rickets.
Do multivitamins interact with any other drugs? In general, multivitamins provide the nutrients that are common to a well-rounded diet in the first place, so they don’t have any strange or unpleasant health ramifications the same way that some niche dietary supplements do. That said, some vitamins can lessen or increase the effect of other drugs. Multivitamins which contain vitamin E, for example, may act as a very, very moderate blood thinner, which would be dangerous if you’re already taking other drugs which thin your blood or decrease your blood pressure. As such, though children’s multivitamins are more or less safe in terms of drug interactions, it’s worthwhile to ask your child’s pediatrician if they’re already taking another drug regularly or for a specific health condition before you begin giving them multivitamin supplements.
What is the best time of day to take multivitamins? There isn’t a best time of day to take multivitamins as they’re not prescription medications which require stricter rules. However, the fat-soluble vitamins in such supplements will respond better if taken with a meal, as your body won’t absorb them as well on an empty stomach. Multivitamins are commonly taken in the morning with breakfast, and taking one with your evening or lunch meal would work equally well.
Can adults take multivitamins intended for kids as well? Adults can, for the most part, take multivitamins which are intended for children, and do so without any unforeseen health complications. Adult multivitamins, however, may prove more effective due to different dosages and vitamin content.
Is there a difference between kid’s multivitamins and those intended for adults? The biggest difference between the two varieties is simply dosing, as children and adults need different levels of the same types of vitamins for a well-rounded diet. Otherwise, the types of vitamins included and the health benefits conferred are generally the same. The only exception is in situations where an adult metabolism differs from that of a child, such as in terms of vitamin D absorption and the building of healthy bones (38).
What are the best vitamins for children’s immune system? The best vitamins for a child’s immune system are vitamin C, vitamin E, and vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 is vital to supporting biochemical reactions in the immune system. Vitamin C bolsters the immune system. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that helps the body fight off infection.
What should I look for in a kids multivitamin? It’s important to look for a wide range of vitamins and nutrients in multivitamins for children. They should include vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin D. They may also have added iron (see above) and other vitamins and minerals, such as thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxine, vitamin B12, and vitamin E.
Multivitamins are commonly-taken supplements for a reason. Their cocktail of different vitamins can lead to a wide variety of different benefits, especially for children. Good mental health, strong and dense bones, a responsive immune system, and the prevention of chronic diseases are all consequences of proper nutrition, and multivitamins can help fill in the gaps of an unbalanced or under-nutritious diet. Though overdoses and drug interactions are technically possible, multivitamins are generally well-tolerated and safe for use by children of essentially all ages.