Adequate intake of vitamins and minerals is critically important during the rapid brain growth and cognitive development of childhood and throughout adolescence.
In fact, certain brain areas such as the frontal lobes continue to develop well into young adulthood. This is one of the reasons why the nutritional requirements for children are higher in proportion to body weight than they are for adults. Furthermore, many children have increased nutritional needs due to certain conditions like ADD/ADHD, asthma, allergies and autism.
To support attention, focus, and the ability to perform cognitive tasks like problem solving and memory, vitamins and minerals play important roles in many processes in the brain—from supplying oxygen to brain cells and supporting the production of ATP/energy, to optimizing the function of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, glutamate, and norepinephrine—all of which are essential for the healthy communication between neurons in the brain.
Even borderline vitamin inadequacies have been linked to cognitive changes in adolescents.1
Unfortunately, however, the fact is that many children and adolescents do not reach recommended intakes for many vitamins and minerals. The reasons for these nutrient inadequacies vary widely from case to case, but can include everything from picky eating habits and food allergies to certain health issues and genetic factors, to the decreased nutritional content of our food supply and decreased time spent outdoors (in the case of vitamin D in particular). Even healthy, well-balanced diets often do not provide optimal amounts of every nutrient kids need.
Because deficiencies or low levels of such nutrients can have serious and even life-long health consequences, I recommend to all of my patients that they give their children a high quality daily multivitamin. I believe it is one of the most important, and yet simplest, things parents can do to support the cognitive development of their children and ensure adequate intake of all vitamins and minerals required for optimal health and development during the crucial childhood years.
A recent study of children ages 8-14 found that the children given a daily multivitamin everyday did better on attention tests than children who were not.2
Just as important, however, is the fact that not all multivitamins offer equal quality, formula, or effectiveness. Today’s multivitamins for children come in a large array of delivery systems—including liquids, chewables, gummies, and powders. As is the case for all supplements, the quality available varies widely and depends on the ingredients used and how well absorbed they are. But in general it is difficult to get the quantities of nutrients a child needs for optimal health into a gummy. I also worry about ingredients that shouldn’t be there, such as sugar, high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors or sweeteners, and binders. These all detract from the overall quality of a multivitamin. Parents should be sure to check the ingredients carefully.
I think that there are better alternatives to tablets and gummy delivery systems; the most innovative and effective delivery option for a children’s daily multivitamin is effervescence. Effervescent daily multivitamins mix with water to create a tasty drink that kids like, and research shows effervescence to offer superior absorption.
Of course, any parent knows that kids will only take something they like and that tastes good. I believe the last place kids need more sugar is in their daily multivitamins, so I recommend that parents look for multivitamins that use stevia to deliver a great taste kids love. Stevia is a healthy natural sweetener that makes an excellent alternative to sugar and artificial sweeteners.
A final consideration for choosing a high quality daily multivitamin for your children is third-party testing. Any children’s supplement should always be third-party tested by an independent laboratory to ensure that the product is not only meeting label claims for potency, but that it is free of toxins and environmental contaminants like heavy metals and PCBs.
1. Bryan J, et al. Nutr Rev 2004;62(8):295–306.
2. Haskell CF, et al. Br J Nutr 2008;100:1086–1096
Dr. Audra Foster is a licensed, board-certified doctor of Naturopathic Medicine and is considered a Primary Care Physician in the state of California. She has been in private practice since 1997, and focuses? on general medicine with an emphasis in women’s health, including a wide variety of menopausal and gynecological concerns. In addition, she specializes in bio-identical hormone balancing for men and women, and has many years of experience in treating chronic illnesses and disease through natural methods of healing.
Medicine has always been Dr. Foster’s passion, but helping patients? develop a lifestyle of healthy living is what prompted her to become a Naturopathic Doctor. Her goal is to help patients reverse illness and prevent or slow further degeneration. Her treatment modalities include botanicals, homeopathics, nutraceuticals, bio-identical hormones, and other forms of alternative medicine.
Dr. Foster is an Advisory Board Member for Vitalah, a company that specializes in effervescent multivitamins under the brand name of Oxylent. Oxylent.com