“Anong magandang vitamin para sa anak ko?” (What is the best vitamin for my child?) It’s a question Pinoy moms ask us lot. And after we posed this inquiry to a pediatrician, the doctor says she needs to determine one crucial detail first: is the child eating a balanced, healthy diet?
Dr. Rita Paz Rowena A. De Guzman, a developmental pediatrician who holds clinic at the Far Eastern University - Nicanor Reyes Medical Foundation and a fellow of the Philippine Pediatric Society, sat down with SmartParenting.com.ph to talk about vitamin supplements for children during an event of Fern’s Kiddimin held in April.
Food is the best source of nutrients, Dr. De Guzman said, for a balanced, healthy, and nutritious diet. But, with the proliferation of fast food and instant meals, a balanced meal is not always assured.
“We live busy lives and fast food is convenient. So, when we talk to the parents, we get background information and ask about what the child eats. If we feel that a nutritious diet is not always provided, then a vitamin supplement becomes essential,” said Dr. De Guzman.
Vitamin supplements, also called multivitamins, fill in gaps in a child’s nutritional deficiencies. They’re essential because there are repercussions to the health of the child if these gaps are left unfilled, the pediatrician explained.
“Let me give a very common example that’s being discussed right now. Vitamin D was not really essential before in the diet of Filipino kids, but because kids today are getting limited outdoor play — because they’re always on gadgets, they don’t get to be under the sun — the vitamin D in their bodies has really gone down.”
It’s why vitamin D is included in most multivitamin supplements, the doctor adds. This vitamin, which is essential for calcium absorption, cannot be obtained from food, only through sun exposure. “If you don't provide enough vitamin D you end up with children who may have problems with growth, with their bones.”
“So, we inform the parents and educate them about a healthy diet. If it turns out that they cannot provide a nutritious and balanced one then you supplement.”
Here’s another question Pinoy parents ask a lot: “Ang payat ng anak ko. Anong vitamins ang ibibigay ko?”
Dr. De Guzman answered, “Again, we ask about diet first, and if it doesn't seem to be sufficient — and in most cases, it isn't — then you have to give your vitamins.
“Vitamins are not really for just weight gain. Vitamins will be to supply all your micro- and macronutrients. For picky eaters, which is also a concern of the moms, it still boils down to a healthy, nutritious, balanced diet. But while you're in the process of correcting the picky eating behavior then you have to give something to supply what's missing until you can balance it out.”
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the necessary vitamins and minerals for the normal growth of children include vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, iron, and B vitamins. UNICEF adds iodine to this list as well (which is why table salt in the Philippines is often fortified with iodine). Negative health consequences of a lack of these nutrients include anemia (whose symptoms manifest as a child who is “matamlay”), increased susceptibility to infection, and even preventable blindness.
Remember to always consult a pediatrician before giving any vitamin supplement to your child. If your child is prescribed a multivitamin, follow dosage instructions, explain that they are not candy, and store them out of your child’s reach.