Supplements: What Do Kids Really Need?

The truth about which supplements are needed during childhood.

Written By:
Kaylynn Chiarello-Ebner
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Imagine tripling your body weight within one year. Well, that’s status quo for the average healthy baby, who triples his/her birth weight before their first birthday. By age two, birth weight is often quadrupled. And from about age three through puberty, many children grow about two inches each year. Talk about lightning fast development!

The childhood years comprise an important nutritional period as the foundation for helping kids thrive. States Susan Hazels Mitmesser, Ph.D., director of nutrition research at Solgar, Leonia, NJ, “Good nutrition during this period not only supports healthy development, but also may be associated with a healthy life into adulthood.”

Mixed Messages on Multis
Picky, picky. Veggies are icky! Parents are inundated with diverse opinions about multivitamins. The Mayo Clinic says they aren’t necessary if a child is healthy and growing normally (1), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) feels the same way (2).

Not everyone agrees with this opinion, however. While kids should get most of their nutrients from a broad-range of healthy whole foods, says Michele McRae, M.S., C.N., senior director of research, formulation and quality at Rainbow Light Nutitional Systems, Santa Cruz, CA, she has an important follow-up: “Unfortunately, many children do not eat a healthy diet on a daily basis; this is where multivitamins come into play.”

Andreas Koch, Marketing Director for Barlean’s, Ferndale, WA, is in agreement, saying, that parents—even in this country—don’t have an easy job giving their children a balanced diet. He states, “It makes sense to buy the inexpensive insurance policy and give children a daily multivitamin. That way, you’re sure you’ve got all dietary nutrition covered.”

Without a base level of nutrition that multis provide, too many people are falling short of what they need to support optimal health and wellness. A 2011 report (3) found that “about 90% of Americans, including children, are not even getting the lowly RDAs of essential nutrients from diet consistently,” says Michael Mooney, director of science and education at SuperNutrition, Oakland, CA.

Rafael Avila, manager of research and development at Nature’s Plus, Melville, NY, provides some specifics on the topic, noting that “although Americans are more health conscious than ever, our nutritional profile is still not very good.” The Center for Disease Control’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data suggest 94% of Americans consume inadequate amounts of vitamin D, 90% are deficient in vitamin E, 50% get insufficient levels of magnesium, 46% receive inadequate calcium, 41% are inadequate in vitamin A and 37% are inadequate in vitamin C, Avila explains. Zinc, iron, B6, B12, selenium, thiamin, niacin and riboflavin intakes are also inadequate in our diet (4).

Shortfalls in kids’ diets may partly stem from food choices. Lisa Lent, founder and CEO of Vitalah, Watsonville, CA, says, “more than one-third of the daily calories consumed by an average child come from solid fats and added sugar” (5).

In addition, too many kids choose from the same narrow options day in and day out. Even healthy choices won’t completely solve the problem if variety isn’t happening. States Hallie Rich, founder and president of Rich Vitamins, New York, NY, “Many children tend to be picky eaters … trying to get them to try something new and different is a hassle at best.”

But, there’s hope: “Taking a whole food-based children’s multinutrient formula serves as a nutritional insurance policy guaranteeing that children get all the essential vitamins and minerals they require on a daily basis by sneaking in all the healthy fruits and vegetables kids love to hate,” states Trisha Sugarek MacDonald, B.S., M.S., director of research and development/national educator at Bluebonnet Nutrition Corporation, Sugar Land, TX.

Wider gaps. Lent believes nutritional gaps can become even more pronounced if a child has issues like attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), asthma, allergies and autism.

To this list, one can also add a vegetarian and vegan diet, which may not provide enough dietary protein, DHA/EPA, iron and B12. According to Neil E. Levin, CCN, DANLA, nutrition education manager at NOW Foods, Bloomingdale, IL, “Vegan vitamin B12 from food sources is typically almost non-existent...plant iron sources (non-heme iron) are notoriously difficult to liberate from their food matrices...the ALA form of omega-3 from plant sources may only convert into EPA at a rate between 5% and 15% in a magnesium-dependent process.”

Vitamins hide and seek. Even children without these issues and who consume a “perfect” diet are likely missing out on some nutrients, says David Winston, R.H. (AHG), founder of Herbalist & Alchemist, Washington, NJ, since “much of the food grown in America is grown in demineralized soil and processing can also deplete nutrients from many foods.”

Murray C. Clarke, N.D., D.Hom., L.Ac., author and founder, formulator and president of ChildLife Essentials, Culver City, CA, also gives us this to consider: kids are exposed to so many pollutants in their environment that “even if a child is eating a perfectly balanced organic food diet, they will still require extra antioxidants to help their bodies neutralize, detoxify and eliminate the metals, chemicals, and other industrial toxins that all children are exposed to today.” He flags vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin A, zinc and selenium as some that could help and are readily found in multivitamins.

Given all these important points, Avila summarizes the group’s opinion by stating, “The real question here is, ‘Why is there any debate over [taking multivitamins] at all?’”

Massive Benefits for Bones
In addition to a multivitamin, some parents may want to look into some additional supplement options, with the approval of the child’s healthcare provider. Bone health is an area ripe for some extra nutritional attention.

 

Prescription for Immune Health

No parent likes to see his/her child under the weather, so most families up vitamin C intake to support a healthy immune system. But, there’s so much more to the immune story than just C.

When there are nutrition gaps in the diet, “smart parents are adding immune-strengthening supplements containing EpiCor to the multivitamin routine they already provide their children,” states Stuart Reeves, Ph.D., ARCS, director of R&D at Embria Health Sciences, Ankeny, IA. This ingredient is made up of antioxidants, protein, fiber, polyphenols, vitamins, amino acids, beta glucans and other metabolites that work collaboratively to help strengthen the immune system.

Regarding another ingredient, brand new research on a DHA, prebiotics (PDX and GOS) and yeast beta glucan (as Wellmune WGP from Biothera) combination formula found the supplement was beneficial for kids’ immune health. Researchers gave the supplement in a milk-based beverage to healthy three- and four-year-olds, and they were found to have fewer episodes and shorter duration of acute respiratory infections than children taking a placebo. The supplement group needed fewer antibiotic treatments and stayed home from daycare less time from illness during the 28-week study. The children taking the supplement also had higher interleukin-10 and white blood cell counts at the end of the study, suggesting an anti-inflammatory benefit and/or an increase of effector immune cells.

There are plenty of ways to support immune health in kids, states Reeves: “Good overall health and immune health are intimately linked. Children should eat a healthy diet containing each of the food groups, especially fruits and green vegetables. They should also get plenty of exercise and sleep.”

Reference
F. Li, et al., “Follow-up Formula Consumption in 3- to 4-Year-Olds and Respiratory Infections: An RCT,” Pediatrics 133(6):e1533–1540 (2014).

According to the National Institutes of Health, “Up to 90% of peak bone mass is acquired by age 18 in girls and age 20 in boys, which makes youth the best time for your kids to ‘invest’ in their bone health” (6).

Clarke calls the body’s bone structure “the key to a healthy body” since this foundation—created during childhood—affects one’s health through adulthood. “A solid foundation can influence the child’s strength, stature, fluidity, movement, breathing and immunity, to name a few,” he states.

Eric Ciappio, Ph.D., R.D., scientific leader of DSM Nutritional Products, Parsippany, NJ, says that bone health is “especially critical for teenage girls, as women have a higher risk of developing osteoporosis later in life.” He cites recent study findings (7) suggesting a whopping “81.6% and 97.6% of 14–18-year-old girls consume less than the recommended amounts of calcium and vitamin D from food alone.”

To support healthy bones, Ciappio and several other experts suggest making sure kids are getting enough calcium and vitamin D right off the bat.

Research shows even kids/adolescents living in year-round sunny climates are vitamin D deficient, says Lent, and too few children are getting the calcium they need. “By age 12, fewer than one in 10 girls, and one in three boys get adequate daily calcium through their diet to build healthy bone mass,” McRae adds.

These figures are troubling because “calcium deficiencies are largely associated with diminishing bone health,” states Mandy Voisin, director of business development for RightWay Nutrition, Bluffdale, UT. Vitamin D, of course, helps metabolize the mineral and supports other aspects of health.

Calcium supplementation can make a big impact in kids, says Max Motyka, director of Albion Human Products Division, Saint Clair Shores, MI. He says a recent 18-month study divided a group of over 600 Nigerian toddlers (ages 12–18 months) in three, with all groups getting vitamin A (2,500 IU daily). In addition, one group took calcium carbonate (400 mg daily) and a second group received ground fish (529 ± 109 mg daily). The toddlers’ bone mineral density (BMD) of the forearm was measured five times during the study and a year after it ended. According to Motyka, “An increase in both distal and proximal forearm BMD over time was significantly greater in the calcium-supplemented groups than in the placebo group.” This benefit stopped when supplementation ended (8).

But not just any form will do. “Some brands focus on low costs, and thereby sacrifice well-digested and highly absorbable nutrient forms for low cost materials,” according to Avila. “And while nutrient quality is paramount, parents cannot neglect flavor when it comes to children’s supplements.” He says his company offers chewable and liquid calcium/vitamin D supplements that “deliver the very best health-boosting, highly absorbable, superior quality nutrients available.”

Clarke recommends calcium citrate in a liquid format because it is highly absorbable and bioavailable. “A good formula will also include magnesium citrate, zinc citrate and vitamin D3, which are the key co-factors for absorption and healthy bones,” he states.

Winston reminds readers that bone health is much more than calcium, saying, “In order to absorb calcium you need adequate gastric Hcl, vitamin D, vitamin K, magnesium, potassium, silica and other trace elements such as boron. Getting adequate calcium is not the only issue, you need all these other nutrients as well.”

Vitamin K, especially K2, is getting some well-deserved attention for bone health. Abundant in naturally fermented foods like natto, Americans don’t get much K2 in their diets. Vitamin K intake among U.S. children has been dwindling over the years, with one study estimating that dietary vitamin K intake was 39 mcg/day in the 1950s and only 24 mcg/day in the 1990s. These stats are troubling, given that other studies suggest kids may need more vitamin K than adults.

Therefore, Eric Anderson, senior vice president of global sales and marketing, NattoPharma USA, Inc., Metuchen, NJ, the wholly owned U.S. subsidiary of NattoPharma ASA, Oslo, Norway, believes it should be part of all children’s multivitamins since it is so beneficial to bone health in youth. “And there is evidence to support our position,” he states.

Anderson references a 2007 study (9) in which the serum percentage of undercarboxylated osteocalcin (i.e., an indicator of one’s vitamin K status) was measured in 223 healthy girls (ages 11–12). Researchers found “better vitamin K status was associated with increased bone mineral content,” both of the total body and the lumbar spine. Additional research (10), he says, found “better vitamin K status (at least 45 mcg/day) was associated with decreased bone turnover in healthy girls consuming a typical U.S. diet.” He believes this amount, specifically the K2 form (as MK-7), would be appropriate in children’s multivitamins “particularly those aimed at pre-teen/teenage females.”

In addition to supplements, several interviewees for this piece suggest certain lifestyle changes as ways to support bone health at an early age. For instance, Craig Klein, MS, CNS, LN, national educator at Michael’s Naturopathic Programs, San Antonio, TX, has these two suggestions: “regular, weight-bearing exercise plus intake of adequate amounts of nutrients, particularly minerals, that support the growth of bone tissue and retention of the bone that has already been formed.”

And, Jeffrey Burke, ND, MH, CHS, CNC, radio host, educator and spokesperson for Barlean’s, makes the point that diet plays a big role. He believes dairy is important, but isn’t the be all and end all of bone health. “Vegetables and powdered green drinks are loaded with mineral rich nutrients that are bone strengthening and building, and because today our diets are void of these foods, many of us children and adults miss the nutritional boat, so providing more of them in the diet can be life changing,” says Burke.

He also advocates for replacing sugary drinks with effervescent-flavored mineral drinks that provide easy-to-absorb minerals.

 

Select Children’s Supplements and Ingredients

Albion Human Products Division: Calcium Bisglycinate Chelate, Iron Taste-Free (Ferric Glycinate), Zinc Bisglycinate Chelate Taste Free and Magnesium Bisglycinate Taste Free.

Barlean’s: Omega Kids Swirl and Omega Kids Swirl To-Go.

Bluebonnet Nutrition Corp.: Super Earth Rainforest Animalz Whole Food Based Multiple, Super Earth Rainforest Animalz Calcium Magnesium Plus Vitamin D3, Super Earth Rainforest Animalz Vitamin D3 400 IU, Super Earth Rainforest Animalz Vitamin C 250 mg, Super Earth Rainforest Animalz DHA 100 mg.

ChildLife Essentials: Organic Vitamin D3 for Babies & Infants, Multi Vitamin & Mineral, Probiotics with Colostrum, Probiotics with Colostrum, Vitamin D3 Drops for Kids, Aller-Care, Liquid Calcium with Magnesium, Cod Liver Oil Strawberry Flavor, Echinacea, Essential Fatty Acids, First Defense, Vitamin C, Pure DHA, Formula 3 Cough Syrup, Toothpaste Tablets.

DSM: Range of customized nutrition solutions for our customers including key vitamins, omega-3s, carotenoids and nutrient premixes and custom formulations.

Herbalist & Alchemist: Healthy Kid’s Compound, Kids Calmpound Glycerite, Kid’s Tummy Relief, Compound Mullein Oil, Astragalus glycerite.

Hero: Yummi Bears, Yummi Bears Organic.

Michael’s Naturopathic Programs: Pedia Vites, a liquid for infants and toddlers; Children’s Chewable for kids ages 4-8; Pre-Teen Boys & Pre-Teen Girls; and Teen Boys & Teen Girls.

Natrol: Angry Birds gummies and chewable tablets.

Nature’s Plus: Animal Parade line, which includes AcidophiKidz Children’s Chewables, Calcium Children’s Chewable, Children’s Chewable Inner Ear Support, Children’s Chewable Multi, DHA Children’s Chewable, Fruit & Veggies 5 Children’s Nutritional Shake, Fruit & Veggies Chewables, GOLD Children’s Chewable Multi, GOLD Liquid Children’s Multi, Gummies, KidGreenz Children’s Chewables, Kids Immune Booster Chewable, KidZinc Lozenges, Omega 3/6/9 Junior Softgels, Shake, Sugar Free Calcium Children’s Chewable, Sugar Free Children’s Chewable, Sugar Free Vitamin C Children’s Chewable, Sugar Free Vitamin D3 500 IU Children’s Chewable, Super Fruits Chewables, Tooth Fairy Children’s Chewable Dental Probiotic, Tooth Gel, Tummy Zyme Children’s Chewable Digestive Aid, VitaGels with Whole Food Concentrates, Vitamin C Children’s Chewable, Vitamin D3 200 IU Liquid Drops, Vitamin D3 500 IU Children’s Chewable, Warm Milk Children’s Chewable Sleep Support, Liquilicious Liquid Multi-Vitamin , Source of Life Baby Plex liquid vitamins for infants and toddlers.

NOW Foods: NOW OralBiotic, NOW Kid Vits, NOW Liquid Vitamin D-3, NOW Kid Cal chewable tablets, NOW DHA-100 kids chewable gels, NOW Probiotic-10.

Nutrition Now: Rhino Vitamins.

Probium: Wildberry Chewable 6B Probiotic (Kids 2+).

Rainbow Light Nutritional Systems: Kids Vitamins - Kids One Chewable Multivitamin & Minerals, Nutri Stars Chewable Multivitamin, Active Health Teen Multivitamin, Brain & Focus Multivitamin, Calcium Citrate Chocolate Chewable, Fiber Garden Gummies, Gummy Bear Essentials Multivitamin & Mineral, Gummy Omegalicious Omega 3 Formula, Gummy Power Sours Multivitamin & Mineral, Gummy Vitamin C Slices, NutriStart Multivitamin Powder, Probiolicious Gummies.

Rich Vitamins: alternaVites Kids multivitamin and mineral.

RightWay Nutrition: Pro ENT, Fruit & Veggie VITS, Vitamin D3 Blast.

Solgar: U-Cubes Children’s Multi-Vitamin & Mineral Gummies, Kangavites Multivitamin & Mineral Chewable Tablets, Kangavites Vitamin C 100 mg Chewable Tablets, lit’l squirts Chewable DHA Chewie-Gels, ABC Dophilus Powder, Vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol) 1000 IU Chewable Tablets.

SuperNutrition: SuperNutrition Perfect Kids and SuperNutrition Immune Kids.

UAS LifeSciences: UP4 Kids Cubes Probiotic, UP4 Junior Probiotic.

Vitalah: Children’s Oxylent Multivitamin.

Put On Your Listening Ears
The most recent estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are that 11% of kids age four through 17 were diagnosed with ADHD as of 2011. That’s about 6.4 million children.

While diet and supplements won’t cure ADHD, many parents want to know about any new research that links diet/supplementation and children’s attention. And, there’s plenty to tell them about.

According to Hazels Mitmesser, “Research suggests that poor nutrition impacts not only children’s physical health, but also cognitive, behavioral and neurodevelopmental outcomes.”

Diet is strongly linked with one’s attention. Burke says that researchers have linked pesticides and children’s behavior. In June, for instance, data collected by the MIND Institute at University of California, Davis, found that pregnant women living within a mile of where commercial pesticides are used have an increased risk of having an autistic child. Landmark research printed in 2010 found certain artificial colors like Red 40 were associated with hyperactivity. “This also drives home the informational principals we all should already know, like consuming a high-quality diet with no GMOs, no added chemicals or pesticides and a diet as close to natural whole foods as possible,” he states.

Meanwhile, Voisin stresses the importance of eating a high-protein breakfast, which helps raise dopamine and other neurotransmitter levels more than a high-carb breakfast. “This will keep kids from feeling sluggish and will allow them to focus more,” she states.

McRae says a 2012 review of 70 studies found a diet low in unhealthy fats and high in whole grains, fruits and vegetables was one of the best alternatives to drug therapy for ADHD. She states, “I particularly like the association of ADHD development to ‘Western’ diets rich in saturated fats and sugar, compared with a ‘healthy’ diet of low-fat proteins with a high proportion of vegetables, fruits and whole grains.” Similarly, Levin states that some processed food additives may contribute to children’s learning and behavior problems.

Again, while supplements won’t cure ADHD (and should be taken in consultation with a child’s healthcare provider), Hazels Mitmesser zeros in on omega-3 as a hot spot for emerging research in brain development. “The incorporation of omega-3 fatty acids in the brain increases membrane fluidity, which enhances the transfer of information to and from the brain. These fatty acids are essential for normal brain structure, development, and function. More recently, scientists are investigating the specifics of brain function in children, such as learning and behavior,” she says.

Ciappio draws readers’ attention to a new clinical trial called the DOLAB study (Docosahexaenoic acid Oxford Learning And Behavior). Seven-to-nine-year-olds were given 600 mg DHA/day and their reading skills were tested (11). “The investigators of this study found that among children with lowest reading scores (<20th percentile), 16 weeks of supplementation with DHA significantly improved their standardized reading scores,” states Ciappio. Parents also reported improved behavior. “This is definitely exciting and emerging research that researchers and parents should follow closely as it continues to develop,” he says.

Zinc, says Mooney, is another area deserving of additional research. He states, “More studies need to be conducted, but other studies, one published in 2013, have shown supplemental zinc intake to be associated with improved cognitive function in both adults and children,” says Mooney.

Motyka says a pilot study found that zinc reduced the amount of amphetamine (i.e., a nervous system stimulant drug used in the treatment of ADHD) needed by over one-third (12). “Given the concerns about long-term stimulant exposure, such a reduction could contribute immensely to public health,” he believes.

Mooney adds additional info about zinc. A study presented at the proceedings of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology in 2005 compared the effects of taking a placebo versus taking 10 or 20 mg of daily zinc. In the end, taking the larger zinc dose improved visual memory, attention span, reaction times, word recognition and target detections significantly more than placebo or 10 mg of zinc. Conduct problems in the 20 mg zinc group were 10% less than kids in the other groups.

Winston says one of the most exciting herbs he has come across clinically for children’s behavior and attention is hawthorn solid extract. He states that although he would normally use a range of items to balance one’s behavioral state, this extract is “astonishingly useful for helping to reduce ADHD symptoms in children.”

Winston also believes bacopa may be something to consider. “There was also a new human study on bacopa for teenagers with ADHD and it showed that bacopa was effective in reducing symptoms including inattention and immature behavior, and it improved focus and concentration,” he states.

Susannah Kim, senior marketing manager for Natrol, Chatsworth, CA, says other research connecting dietary supplementation and children’s behavior and attention has focused on phosphatidylserine and l-theanine, an amino acid found in green tea.

Last, a 2006 study was conducted on a branded French maritime pine bark extract (Pycnogenol, distributed by Horphag Research USA). Sixty-one kids took 1 mg of the extract every day for a month. The study found Pycnogenol reduced hyperactivity and improved attention, visual/motoric coordination and concentration in children with ADHD. Kids taking the placebo did not have these benefits. After the extract was stopped, the symptoms returned (13).

Iron in the Fire
During periods of rapid growth, children can become iron deficient. If a physician feels a child needs to supplement with iron, parents have several issues to consider. Supplementation is tricky because of absorbability and gastric complaints, especially with forms like ferrous sulfate. But companies are making strides to combat these problems.

Lent believes iron is one mineral where quality makes a huge difference. “Absorbability, gastric side effects and taste are all issues for iron, particularly for children and adolescents,” she states. She believes “chelated iron is safer, more effective at improving iron status, produces less gastrointestinal upset (such as nausea and constipation), has no taste, and does not block the absorption of other nutrients (such as calcium, vitamin E, and vitamin C) like typical forms of supplemental iron can.”

What’s Selling: Kids’ Products

Midwest

Healthy Treasures, Newton Falls, OH

Nature’s Answer, Sambucus

BHI/Heel, Mucus Relief

Nature’s Plus, Animal Parade Tooth Fairy

 

Southeast

Der Dutch Merchant, Murray, KY

Homeolab, Kids Relief (full line)

ReNew Life, Ultimate Flora, Kid’s Probiotic

ReNew Life, Buddy Bear Fiber

LA Naturals, Kid’s Liquid Vit. C

 

Northeast

Sunny Bridge Natural Foods, McMurray, PA

Nordic Naturals, Children’s DHA

Annie’s, Bernie’s Farm Animal Cookies

Annie’s, Bernie’s Farm Cheddar Crackers

 

Northwest

Vig’s Health Food Store, Lewiston, ID

Olympian Labs, Pedia Calm

Hyland’s for Kids, Calm ‘n Restful

Herbs for Kids, Valerian Super Calm

 

The same form of iron is used by Bluebonnet Nutrition Corp.  better for stability and absorption. “The patented technology from Albion replicates the body’s natural chelation process, essentially turning inorganic minerals into small, highly bioavailable organic molecules,” states Sugarek MacDonald. The process also creates a neutral mineral compound that won’t deactivate other important nutrients or medications like minerals with an electrical charge do.

Levin says his company also opts for a chelated form that is essentially “predigested” by bonding it to a weak food acid. “NOW prefers to use the gentle bisglycinate form that consists of elemental iron bonded to two molecules of the amino acid glycine, “ he states. “Vitamin C is known to enhance the absorption of iron, so it should be coadministered or taken with fruit or fruit juices.”

Avila’s firm also uses organically bound forms of iron, including gluconates, aminoates and other amino acids.

Motyka says his company recently developed a taste-free version of its patented ferric glycinate ingredient, “to allow for more applications of the ingredient in situations where flavor, or lack thereof, is important…Typically, you would have to sacrifice bioavailability for good taste.”

In the end, Albion found that glycine had a buffer capacity that allows ferric glycinate to stay in-solution in the top of the small intestine. “By doing so, the Ferric iron (not bioavailable) is able to be converted at the absorption site to the bioavailable Ferrous iron,” he explains. “This conversion is done by interaction with the enzyme ferric reductase, allowing the iron to be absorbable. Albion found that the ingredient is better absorbed in any type of liquid due to the buffer capacity of the glycine.”

Meanwhile, Mooney says his company uses iron carbonyl because it absorbs well, doesn’t cause stomach upset, doesn’t constipate and “has the unique feature of being so free from toxicity.”

Clarke cautions readers that an overdose of iron is a leading cause of death in young children, so tell parents to only ramp up a child’s intake if a doctor recommends it.

Baby Bugs
It seems that more and more companies are launching probiotics for kids, and for good reason. “The gastrointestinal tract serves the essential role of breaking down the foods we consume and allowing our body to absorb the nutrients from those foods along the way. It does this by relying upon the complex ecosystem of bacteria,“ says Hazels Mitmesser.

Not only do probiotics offer digestive support, but Clarke makes the point that new research links digestive health with proper brain function and growth. He says, “Naturopathic doctors have known this through observation for hundreds of years, and now current research has confirmed that any disturbance in the proper function of the stomach, small intestine, large intestine, pancreas or liver, will create a direct disturbance on mental function and behavior.”

While research is still unfolding about which friendly bacteria are most beneficial in kids’ products, Kim states that Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli are the most commonly seen in foods and kids’ supplements, and are also the most common in intestinal flora.

Avila says children need a different variety of probiotics than adults do. “In infants and young children, simply supplying Lactobacillus acidophilus does not address the variety of friendly intestinal flora needed for optimal health.” He believes acidophilus is better suited for adults, whereas bifidobacteria are prominent in the intestines of infants and small children. “That’s why we designed Animal Parade AcidophiKidz with a predominance of Bifidobacteria infantis, adolescentis, longum and bifidum, which have been shown to improve areas of health that are of most concern for children and their parents, the health of the digestive, cardiovascular and immune systems,” he states.

Voisin adds that parents can also look for a probiotic called BLIS K12, “which really helps with immune health and oral cavity health.”

Sweet Supplements
From multis to probiotics, parents have numerous supplements to consider for their kids (in consultation with a physician). But some moms and dads are leery of “fun” delivery formats for kids’ supplements with the belief that they are loaded with sugar and don’t contain enough nutrients.

“The criticism itself is valid,” says Avila, noting some products “are nothing more than mildly fortified candies.”

Part of the problem with some “fun” delivery formats, according to Lana Woshnak, technical marketing manager of DSM Nutritional Products, is “due to the technical challenges involved in formulating such a delivery system that is both stable and tasty.”

Avila believes retailers can offer chewables and liquids for kids that are either sugar free or are sweetened with natural, non-GMO fruit and vegetable sugars. Such products from his company have sugar derived from these sources “at levels equivalent to what a child would receive in a small serving of apples or oranges.”

Voisin believes that a small bit of sugar might be a reasonable trade off for compliance. “If they get the kids to take their supplements, that is a positive thing. There are new chewables and gummies on the market now, though, that really are tasty and are not completely full of sugar,” she states.

“You have to choose your battles,” says McRae. “I’d rather have children consume a pack of gummies that are fortified with nutrients than similar products that have no benefit at all.” Therefore, she believes good supplements in “fun” formats with reasonable sweeteners added may be the only way to get some kids to get the nutrients they need. It’s not uncommon to see vitamins with up to five grams per serving.

Lent says sugary supplements are a response to the fact that taste is crucial in the children’s category and compliance is a problem. But, she feels there should be options that don’t rely on too much sweetener. “That’s why a consistent trend for this category continues to be better-tasting children’s supplements that are free from sugar. Parents want good-tasting, artificial-free supplements that are health-promoting for their children,” Lent states.

An example is an effervescent multi from Lent’s company that is sweetened with stevia. “Research shows effervescence to offer superior absorption, and for this reason effervescence is forecasted as the future delivery system of choice,” Lent adds.

Rich says her company’s patented quick-dissolve delivery system “allows not only for optimal potency in the formula and delicious flavors, but does so without sugar or artificial sweeteners.” In fact, seeing so many fun kids’ supplements loaded with sugar and additives and without meaningful levels of nutrients was the motivation for her line. “By being able to have the powder melt in your mouth or be mixed into smoothies, shakes, puddings, and other snacks or drinks, children can get creative and have fun without asking the parent to sacrifice on high-quality and -potency nutritional support for their kids.”

Clarke likes liquids because they are highly absorbable, easy to digest, easy to assimilate and “allow for significant values in the ingredients, without having to add extra sugars or sweeteners.”

Koch’s firm handles the issue of delivery forms for kids with a smoothie-like fish and flaxseed oil that is sweetened with xylitol. “The Omega Swirls are emulsified and have a higher absorption,” he states. “Omega Swirls are premicronized, allowing for rapid digestion and assimilation through the intestinal tract and into the bloodstream, thus allowing for maximum cellular bioavailability versus standard fish oil.”

Mooney offers some handy advice for parents of older children that can handle a full-potency multivitamin tablet, which he believes provides superior health results: have the child take the tablet with sparkling water. “If one takes a tablet with plain water, the brain doesn’t dilate the upper esophageal sphincter that lets the tablet into the esophagus, because it doesn’t sense mass. The bubbles in sparkling water trick the brain into dilating the sphincter so that swallowing a tablet is easy.”

In the end, Klein leaves retailers with two important things to think about. First, “The responsibility is on the parents to read labels to make sure that they are providing a quality supplement that does not come along with other ‘baggage,’” he states. And if parents choose fun formats, Klein believes, “Children need to understand that even supplements, not just prescription drugs, have to be taken carefully and never without it being provided to them by an adult.” WF

References
1. J.L. Hoecker, “Should I Give Multivitamins to My Preschooler?” www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/multivitamins/faq-20058310, accessed June 30, 2014.
2. “Sound Advice,” www.healthychildren.org/English/.../Stettler-8-16-10v4_1.pdf, accessed June 30, 2014.
3. Milk Processor Education Program Dairy Research Institute, What America’s Missing: A 2011 Report on the Nation’s Nutrient Gap, http://files.meetup.com/327611/What%20America’s%20Missing.pdf, accessed June 30, 2014.
4. International Life Sciences Institute, www.ilsi.org/NorthAmerica/Documents/FORTIFICATION/3_Moshfegh_June%202012.pdf, accessed June 30, 2014.
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Published in WholeFoods Magazine, August 2014