Young children need vitamins
Calcium, Vitamin D or Omega-3 Fatty Acids - Do Children Need Dietary Supplements?
Children have a mind of their own when they eat
Eating and drinking have a decisive influence on how children develop physically and mentally, how well they can concentrate and how resistant they are to disease. Children's metabolism works much faster than that of adults because children grow and move a lot more. Therefore, they need more energy / calories per kilogram of body weight than adults.
Various studies show that children have their own mind when eating and of course do not always eat what is recommended. Too often sweet drinks, sausage, confectionery and snacks are used, and "healthy" foods such as vegetables are rejected. Many mothers and fathers are unsure whether their offspring is still adequately cared for, especially if the child is currently in a growth spurt or is facing new challenges.
Two large German studies - DONALD and ESKIMO - show that, with a few exceptions, the Nutrient supply in children generally good is. The recommended amounts for the vitamins folate and vitamin D as well as the minerals iron, iodine and calcium are not fully achieved. However, this does not mean that these children suffer from a deficiency, as the recommendations are very generous. However, an improvement in the supply of conventional food cannot do any harm. A varied diet with plenty of grain products, potatoes, vegetables, fruit and (low-fat) dairy products should be offered every day - if possible, taking into account the children's taste.
The role model of the parents is important.
The vitamin D supply is significantly improved by regular, longer playing outdoors, which also increases energy consumption. As a rule, children do not need any extra vitamins or minerals (dietary supplements) - neither in elementary school nor when switching to secondary school.
Which products does the advertising recommend, what makes sense?
Food supplements for children and adolescents with a whole range of vitamins, minerals or omega-3 fatty acids are available in stores - often in child-friendly forms such as bears or cars. Fruit and vegetable extracts are also offered as "juices" or fruit gums for children. They are supposed to strengthen the body's defenses, prevent vitamin deficiencies or counteract school stress. They are advertised with statements such as "Which child already eats vegetables 3 times a day" or "Is your child often sick?". They should also make us believe that children can better meet the challenges of modern everyday life with an extra portion of vitamins, minerals or special fatty acids - especially if they are supposed to be more efficient than others or if they have learning difficulties and concentration problems.
Emotionally charged statements such as "the future needs superheroes" suggest that children need a "brain-specific" diet. Products that contain omega-3 fatty acids as the main component are often offered especially for fidgety children. Supplemented by various vitamins, manufacturers promise a wide range of improvements or support for the child's thinking and learning performance.
Many of the statements advertised have not been scientifically proven. With regard to the development and health of children ("child claims"), according to the Health Claims Ordinance (HCVO), health statements may only be made for very few ingredients. You can find a list of approved advertising claims in the table.
|Calcium, vitamin D (as well as calcium + vitamin D), phosphorus, protein||... are required for healthy growth and development of the bones|
|Vitamin D||... contributes to the normal function of the immune system in children|
|DHA (omega-3 fatty acid is derived from alpha-linolenic acid)||... contributes to the normal development of eyesight in babies up to 12 months|
... The mother's uptake of DHA contributes to the normal development of the eyes in the fetus and in the breastfed infant at
... The mother's uptake of DHA contributes to normal brain development in the fetus and in the breastfed infant at
|Alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3 fatty acid) and linoleic acid||..are needed for healthy growth and development|
|iodine||... contributes to normal growth|
|iron||... contributes to normal cognitive development|
However, these ingredients only promise a guarantee of the normal Body functions. A improvement E.g. school performance cannot be achieved by adding nutrients, unless there is a real deficiency. As a rule, children and adolescents are well supplied with nutrients. There is rarely a real nutritional deficiency. In this case, the cause must be determined by a doctor and the treatment should then also be in the hands of the doctor.
The vitamin D and fluorine tablets recommended for infants and toddlers are not dietary supplements, like the products for children discussed so far, but pharmaceuticals. They are used to prevent diseases such as rickets and tooth decay. The costs for this are covered by the health insurance companies. From a certain age - the decision is made by the pediatrician - normal food and plenty of outdoor exercise or the use of suitable children's toothpaste containing fluoride are usually sufficient.
What should I look out for when using child supplements?
Dietary supplements are not a substitute for a balanced diet and cannot correct an unhealthy lifestyle. Vitamin supplements or "The best of vegetables and fruits" in capsule form contain only a fraction of what is actually contained in the corresponding foods; for example, there is often a lack of valuable fiber.
Most nutritional supplements for children contain nutrients that children are usually already well supplied with. Anyone who thinks "a lot helps a lot" is mistaken. An oversupply of certain nutrients poses an increased health risk.
For safety reasons, the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) recommends that the vitamin A content in food supplements should not be higher than 200 µg, and that it is best not to contain beta-carotene (provitamin A) at all. The same applies to the trace elements copper and boron, the addition of which is not suitable for children and young people. Food supplements should also not contain fluoride. There are no maximum recommended amounts for children's food supplements; the existing ones are aimed at young people over 15 years of age and adults.
In a market check by the consumer advice centers, 85 percent of those examined were found Food supplements for children at least one of the vitamins or minerals above the reference value of the German Nutrition Society for 4- to 7-year-olds. More than half of the products even exceeded the maximum levels proposed by the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, which are intended for people aged 15 and over.
Children's products in the form of fruit gums in bears or car shapes are particularly critical, especially if they are also in a "candy" jar instead of a blister. There is not only a risk of confusion, the temptation for children is great to help themselves from the glass more often. The safety locks, some of which are in place, are easy to "crack" by many 6-year-olds.
As soon as toddlers' teeth are brushed with fluoridated toothpaste, according to the BfR no more fluoride tablets (usually medicines) should be given, since small children absorb just as much fluoride by swallowing toothpaste as they do with tablets or fluoridated table salt. Please discuss this with your pediatrician.
When it comes to the composition of their dietary supplements, the providers often orient themselves towards the nutrient recommendations (D-A-CH reference values) of the German Nutrition Society (DGE) for certain age groups. These are recommendations for the total daily intake of the nutrient. This also includes what is normally eaten. There are also foods fortified with vitamins or minerals such as children's yoghurt, multivitamin juice, etc. Especially when children eat several fortified foods every day and perhaps also receive a dietary supplement, this can lead to a harmful oversupply.
All packaging must indicate what percentage of the nutrient reference values (NRV, reference values) for the various vitamins and minerals and trace elements are covered by the product per day - but this information is based on the law on healthy adults. Trying to achieve 100 percent or even more makes no sense for children and can even be dangerous. The intended dosage should not be exceeded, because the manufacturer only has to guarantee the safety of the product for the amount specified by him.
In general, fortified foods are not recommended for children. If children receive food supplements, they should definitely avoid such supposedly "child-friendly foods" with extra vitamins and minerals (e.g. breakfast cereals, spreads and yoghurts especially for children).
If you have any concerns about your child's vitamin or mineral supply or would like to be on the safe side, you should speak to the pediatrician.
What else can I do?
With children in particular, it is better to use natural sources of nutrients, especially plant-based foods. Good sources of folate are green, leafy vegetables, whole grain bread, and legumes. There is plenty of vitamin D in egg yolks and high-fat sea fish such as salmon, herring and mackerel. But above all - under the action of sunlight - it is formed by the body itself. Therefore, playing and exercising outdoors every day - even in winter - should be a matter of course. It is advisable to let children from 3 years of age play outside without sun protection in summer (about 15 minutes while avoiding sunburn).
Meat, in particular, but also whole grain products, nuts and green vegetables await with plenty of iron. The consumption of sea fish, milk and milk products and the use of iodized table salt contribute to an optimal iodine supply. In addition to dairy products, good sources of calcium include nuts, calcium-rich mineral water and green vegetables such as broccoli and green beans. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in high-fat sea fish.
In addition, vegetable oils such as linseed, rapeseed and walnut oil, which contain alpha-linolenic acid, should be used with preference. As a small snack in between - but also for the breakfast box - with children from about 5 years (because of the risk of swallowing) hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, peanuts (unsalted), cashews or sunflower seeds are very popular.
You can find more information in our "Nutritional Recommendations for Children" offer, including useful information about meal distribution, tips on the menu and answers to many parents' questions.
Nutrition Commission of the German Society for Child and Adolescent Medicine (DGKJ e.V.) and the German Society for Child Endocrinology and Diabetology (DGKED e.V.), joint statement of April 19, 2018
Weißenborn A. et al .: Maximum levels for vitamins and minerals in food supplements. J Consum Prot Food Saf (2018). Published online on January 4th, 2018
DGE reference values for nutrient intake, 2nd edition, 5th updated edition 2019
Lower Saxony State Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety. Food supplements for children. 2013/2014. Access: June 8th, 2020
Stiftung Warentest. Food supplements for children: superfluous at best. 2008. Accessed: June 8th, 2020
For healthy teeth: fluoride prevention in infants and young children. Opinion No. 015/2018 of the BfR dated May 31, 2018. Access: June 8th, 2020
Consumer advice center: market check. Food supplements for children. Published on May 15, 2018, accessed on June 8, 2020
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