February 3, 2009

Kids who need them the least take vitamins

Children and teens with healthier nutrition, active lifestyles, food security and greater healthcare access are more likely to use vitamins, researchers say.

Dr. Ulfat Shaikh of the University of California Davis School of Medicine in Sacramento and colleagues analyzed data from 10,828 children ages 2 to 17 who participated in the 1999 to 2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. As part of the study, parents filled out questionnaires and participated in household interviews, and children and teens underwent medical examinations.

Supplemental vitamins are recommended only for certain groups of children, including those with chronic diseases, eating disorders, problems absorbing nutrients or liver disease, or obese children in weight-loss programs, Shaikh said.

The study, published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, found about 34 percent of the children and adolescents had used vitamin and mineral supplements in the past month, with underweight children having greater intakes.

Our results supported our hypothesis that underweight children would have the highest use of vitamin and mineral supplements, the study authors said in a statement.

The findings indicates that children at the highest risk for deficiencies -- including those with less healthy patterns of diet and exercise, greater obesity, lower income and food security, poorer health and less access to health care -- may be least likely to use vitamin and mineral supplements, the study said.