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Micronutrients in children's diets

Children's diets should be varied and balanced, with plenty of fruit and vegetables. So far, so good. In practice, it is sometimes not that easy to motivate children to eat a healthy diet. As a result, many parents worry whether their children are getting enough vitamins and minerals. The uncertainty is understandable at first, as essential micronutrients are much needed; they are indispensable for growth and a healthy development, but also for health in general, and deficiencies can have negative health consequences.

However, scientific studies show that the nutrient supply of children and adolescents in Germany is good overall. Only for some micronutrients, the median intake of children and adolescents determined in the studies is below the respective intake reference value - for example, for iron in girls aged 12 and over. This does not automatically mean that there is a deficiency requiring treatment, because the actual nutrient requirements vary from person to person and the intake reference values are calculated in such a way that they ensure an adequate supply of nutrients for almost everyone in a healthy population.

Nevertheless, if parents are concerned that their child's intake of certain micronutrients is too low, they should first discuss this with a paediatrician - and have their child’s nutritional status determined if necessary. Parents should also try to change or adjust the diet. Even very picky children usually like some foods that provide the critical nutrients- for example, a home-cooked pasta and vegetable casserole, a fruit salad for dessert or a freshly prepared fruit smoothie. Comprehensive information on healthy nutrition for children and young people can be found at the Max Rubner Institute's Department of Child Nutrition or the German Nutrition Society (in German only).

A tempting and supposedly simple solution for some parents is to give their child food supplements. However, the BfR generally advises against this. There are several reasons for this: Firstly, food supplements are not an equivalent substitute for a balanced diet, partly because conventional foods provide numerous other valuable ingredients in addition to essential nutrients, such as dietary fibre or phytochemicals. On the other hand, according to current knowledge, taking vitamins and minerals via food supplements has no health benefits if the body's nutrient requirements are already covered by the conventional diet.

At best, excess micronutrients are excreted by the body; however they can also be detrimental to health. For example, an extremely high intake of vitamin D via food supplements can lead to increased calcium levels in the blood and damage the kidneys in the long term.

In addition, parents are often unaware that many food supplements offered or advertised for children contain very high doses. The amounts of vitamins or minerals contained are sometimes even higher than the maximum amounts recommended by the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment for food supplements marketed for adults. There are currently no binding maximum levels for food supplements in Germany, neither for adults nor for children and adolescents.




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Food supplements for children - (not) a good idea?! 278.3 KB


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