Children and Vitamin C: Vitamin C, Niacin, and Multivitamins Catalyze Growth and Development
I believe that the primary function of vitamins is to catalyze the growth and development of and egg and sperm into a healthy adult. Read more here. I therefore believe that the importance of vitamin C, niacin, and multivitamin supplements are a function of age. Optimal daily consumption of vitamins is most important for the youngest members of our society. I recommend 2000 to 3000 mg/day vitamin C, 125 mg time-release niacin two or three times/week, and a one RDA multivitamin/day. This is about half what my own children were raised on.
The RDA’s for children are not set based on the results of experiments with children. They are set based on experiments with healthy adult men. It appears that the doses required to keep healthy men healthy were scaled down for children roughly in proportion with body weight. Adult men are not growing. They can’t benefit as much from vitamin supplements. Scaling down doses required for adults just doesn’t make any sense to me.
My beliefs are based on science. I’ve been studying biology for a second time in order to help my son. His high school text does a wonderful job covering the basics. I learned from the text that the DNA in the nucleus of every human cell contains close to 3 billion DNA base pairs. Every time a cell divides (this happens over and over again during the process of growth and development), an average of 3 mistakes are made. The DNA in the new cell is not exactly the same as the DNA in the parent cell.
No-one grows up perfectly. Vitamin dependent pathways are involved in a large fraction of the chemical reactions that are required for cell division (growth and development). It is perfectly reasonable to hypothesize that taking vitamin C, niacin, and multivitamin supplements can reduce the error rate, especially in times of stress (e.g. when a child is suffering a bad cold).
Not surprisingly, the food manufacturing industry is out front testing the hypothesis that vitamin supplements improve growth and development. In the last ten years numerous studies have been documented proving the benefits of supplementing the diets of baby fish, shrimp, and poultry. I found 7 trials using niacin supplements, and an incredible 50 trials with vitamin C. The aquaculture industry (fish and shrimp) has done so much work with vitamin C that I found three review articles. The results of this body of work are unequivocal – the amount of vitamin C in ordinary food is insufficient to optimize the health and development of fish and shrimp. Food is not enough. Vitamin C supplements are required. Fish and shrimp challenged by bacterial infections and other stresses benefit from roughly 10 times the dose of vitamin C required to optimize growth rates in the absence of stress.
Our society is not going to conduct controlled trials to find the optimum doses of vitamin C for the growth and development of children. This would be both unethical and misguided. The primary concern of parents and regulators is safety. Parents can confidently provide their children with up to 4,000 mg/day of vitamin C every day and up to 10,000 mg/day when they are fighting colds. The only risk is short term discomfort. If 500 or 1000 mg was the optimal dose, no parent will care as long as 4000 mg/day is safe and remains free of discomforts. In other words, if a parent is supplementing his/her children with 4000 mg/day and the children are healthy and happy, that parent is unlikely to explore lower doses in order to find an optimum.
All parents should consider vitamin C, time-release niacin, and multivitamin supplements for their children. The children have everything to gain and almost nothing to lose by giving this approach a try.