Media Monday – The Truth About Kid’s Vitamins

Just last week, a children’s vitamin advert was pulled after suggesting that their brand of vitamins could help improve your child’s NAPLAN score. The original advertisement (pictured) pairs a vitamin called ‘kids smart’ which is misleading in itself, with the friendly (?) reminder that your child will be sitting through intensive testing in which their abilities will be analysed and critiqued. Nature’s way has been accused of exploiting parental anxiety in order to sell a product that really, has very little (nothing) to do with how well a child will perform on these standardised tests.

Many parents find NAPLAN testing stressful and so do the kids. The anxiety and pressure is real and many parents are desperate for their children to be smart. Maybe someone should market a product to help parents and children with NAPLAN related stress? ;)

Truth #1 Vitamins don’t make kids smarter

What? But it’s called ‘kids smart’?

It is true that fish oil has health benefits for children.  Omega 3 can be of assistance for children with learning difficulties such as ADHD and can assist with learning and memory. But it’s a bit of a stretch to suggest that it makes a child smarter or is linked to a child being smart. A healthy, well-balanced diet with limited chemical additives will make it easier for a child to learn. However, we can’t manipulate how smart our children are by simply feeding them vitamins.

Truth #2 Some vitamins are a waste of money

Most vitamins we purchase from our local health food store or chemist are synthetically derived and poorly absorbed.  The truth is that nothing beats obtaining nutrition from real, whole foods. However, it is also true that our diets are inadequate and often require the support of supplements so we need to be vigilant to find the good ones out there!

Truth #3 Some vitamins may do more harm than good

When looking for a iron supplement for my son I stumbled across this one. On closer inspection it contains iron but also  nasty chemical additives including artificial colours, artificial flavours and sodium benzoate (preservative) which is linked to hyperactivity in children. Centrum is supposedly all about ‘health’ and yet sells products containing known carcinogens and markets them to parents.

I put forward a complaint to Centrum and never received a reply. I also went on a hunt to see if any other consumers had complained about the chemical additives in their children’s products but only found reviews that read suspiciously like marketing.

Many children’s vitamins contain artificial colours, flavours, preservatives, sweeteners including aspartame and sugar so be sure to read the labels carefully. It’s also worth finding out a bit more about how synthetic vitamins are made and the presence of petrochemicals. Petrochemicals are used in lots of food, beauty and ‘healthcare’ products as they make production cheaper.

Vitamins and supplements can sometimes lure us into a false sense of security. It’s easy to think or assume that because we take supplements that we are healthy. Supplements should never replace a healthy, balanced diet and simply cannot compare to obtaining optimal nutrition through real, whole foods (where possible).

With so many vitamins and supplements on the market today, it’s hard to know which to trust.  Be sure to read the labels and use a pocket guide such as the chemical maze to look up any numbers you’re unsure of and find some good books on the subjects of food additives such as additive alert and fed up.

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