Saturday, February 24, 2007

Vitamin C, Niacin, and Multivitamins Can Help Children Grow

I’ve written previously about vitamins and children. I’ve taught that vitamins help children fight off colds by helping to build the immune system, and that vitamins help children with hyperactivity or eating disorders by helping to build (or rebuild/heal) the nervous system. I’ve taught that vitamins heal skin burned by heat or the sun’s radiation. To me, this is evidence that vitamins help healing any kind of wound.

In each case I showed that the doses of vitamins used by physicians to treat all of these conditions is far higher than can be obtained by eating a healthy diet. Food is not enough.

When children grow up disabled by learning disabilities, mental illness, and/or poor immunity to diseases, everyone suffers. Our society needs as many well educated, energetic, and productive citizens as possible. Few investments yield as high a return to society as those that meaningfully help ensure no child is left behind.

The debate over the usefulness of vitamin supplements is over. Physicians routinely prescribe doses of vitamins 10 to 100 times higher than can be obtained from a typical recommended diet. Severe vitamin deficiency in childhood causes terrible diseases with permanent consequences. Eating vitamins is not a choice. A healthy diet typically provides more vitamins than an unhealthy diet, and most parents work to help their children eat better. Until 30 years ago, that was the only choice parents had. Today, vitamin supplements are readily available. Supplements enable parents to easily decouple feeding children calories vs. micronutrients. Parents can choose what they feel is the right dose.

Adding supplements to a healthy diet provides higher doses of vitamins than can be consistently obtained from eating food. Based on the evidence, I believe all parents should explore the idea of using vitamin supplements for their children. I recommend 2000-4000 mg/day of vitamin C and a multivitamin every day. I also recommend 125 mg of time-release niacin once or twice per week.

Choosing vitamin doses for children is a difficult task, and parents should not be left on their own. Pediatricians are the obvious group to turn to for help. I also believe that all parents should consult with their pediatricians before starting their children on vitamin supplements. When my children were young, I discussed their supplement program with their pediatricians every year when they had their regular physical.

A primary function of vitamins is to catalyze the growth and development of children into adults. I believe every child should be provided with the opportunity to grow up as healthy, strong and intelligent as possible. I believe this means that all parents should consider vitamin supplements for their children.

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