Vitamins for children may cause a vitamin overdose, according to a new study performed by researchers of the LECOM School of Pharmacy in Erie, Pennsylvania. The study reveals that many supplements for infants and children contain much higher levels of vitamins than the recommended daily allowance (RDA), which is meant to inform consumers about how much of the nutrient the body needs. RDAs are determined by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), a non-profit organization that advises policymakers.
The researchers of the LECOM School of Pharmacy looked at supplements for both infants and children between under 12 months and four years old. Results of the study show that many of the vitamins do not follow the RDAs and vitamin levels are often doubled or even quadrupled. Vitamins A, B6, B12, C, E and Biotin all appear to contain higher levels than recommended and a vitamin overdose may be caused by these vitamins for children. The study reveals that the level of vitamin D in supplements was the only vitamin at or below the RDA.
Although there is currently not much evidence that this forms a major health risk for infants and children, it was previously shown that excessive intake of vitamin B12 in adults increases the risk for cancer. Vitamin B12 can be found in fish, eggs, dairy and meat. Other vitamins, such as vitamin A and B6 which are consumed in large amounts, may cause side effects, including dizziness, nausea and headaches. Other side effects that are more severe are nerve damage and over-sensitivity to sunlight. Vitamin A can be found in carrots, potatoes, leafy greens and butternut squash. Rice, wheat and beans are rich in vitamin B6.
Duffy MacKay, senior vice-president of scientific and regulatory affairs at the Council for Responsible Nutrition, states that higher levels of vitamins in supplements for infants and children are a valid choice, taken into consideration that many infants and children are picky eaters and suffer from a severe lack of nutrients in their bodies. In these cases supplements are a way for parents to ensure their children get all the nutrients they need in order to grow and function. Other experts however, state that this cannot be the standard when manufacturing children’s vitamins and parents can balance their children’s diets by providing the right foods. In addition, modern vitamins for children, such as gummy vitamins, may cause an even higher risk of a vitamin overdose due to the fact that parents and children may treat the gummy vitamin as candy rather than a supplement.
The IOM shows their concern and states that infant’s and children’s bodies may not be able to handle the excessive amounts of vitamins and that due to the lack of evidence parents ought to be cautious with providing large amounts of supplements to their young children.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises parents to speak to a pediatrician to determine if their infant or child needs any particular supplements to complement their diet, depending on their daily eating habits. Vitamin D supplements remain crucial for infants, children and adults, but until further studies will reveal the possible negative effects, parents are advised to take note that vitamins for children may cause a vitamin overdose due to excessive levels that are used in supplements.
By Diana Herst