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Many multivitamins do not match nutritional needs

January 2, 2022

Many multivitamin/mineral (MVM) supplements for children contain micronutrients that children already get enough of in their diets, and some contain amounts that exceed upper tolerable intake levels (UL), an analysis of products showed.

National surveys have shown that young children largely get the micronutrients they need from their diets. Exceptions include vitamins D and E.

Surveys also show about one-third of children over 2 years are given MVMs. However, it is not known whether products on the market fill nutritional gaps or lead to excessive intake.

Researchers, therefore, set out to determine the number and amounts of vitamins and minerals in MVMs labeled for young children and compare each product’s contents to micronutrient needs listed as % daily value (DV).

They analyzed 288 products labeled for children ages 1-4 years in the National Institutes of Health’s Dietary Supplement Label Database in March 2018.

They also looked at whether products contained micronutrients that were considered of public health concern in the 2015 and 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, those that were underconsumed and those that posed a risk if the amount consumed exceeded the UL.

Results showed many products exceeded the DVs for micronutrients that are abundant in food, including biotin, vitamin B-12, pantothenic acid and niacin.

In addition, the amount of micronutrients in many products exceeded the UL, including  folic acid (96 products), vitamin A (48) and zinc (36).

Micronutrients of public health concern included vitamin D, calcium and potassium, which were in 281, 144 and 60 products, respectively. Fifty-six percent of the products with vitamin D contained at least half the DV compared to only 4% of calcium-containing products and none of the products with potassium.

Under-consumed micronutrients and number of products that contained them were as follows: vitamin A (283), vitamin C (286), vitamin E (279), magnesium (150), choline (140), iron (100) and folate (63). Most contained at least half the DV.

“Collectively these results support the need for a reexamination of the amounts of micronutrients in MVMs,” the authors concluded. “Reformulation of MVMs might better meet critical micronutrient gaps of public health interest in young children’s intakes without exceeding the ULs.”

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