The Gummy Vitamins Your Kids Love Could Be Doing More Harm Than Good

gummy vitaminsThey look like candy, and taste like it too, and that's exactly why many parents buy gummy vitamins for their kids. Finally, something the kids will gobble down willingly! But if you've ever wondered if they're too good to be true, you're not alone.

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Vitamins of any kind can be a good supplement for kids who don't get a varied diet of fruits, vegetables, proteins, and grains, says Tara Todd, a registered dietitian specializing in pediatric nutrition at St. Louis Children's Hospital. Your pediatrician will be able to tell you if your child is one who needs to supplement. 

But even then, the benefits of vitamins for kids come with some serious downsides if you opt for a gummy. 

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The biggest drawback? Sugar. A serving of gummy vitamins can account for as much as 10 percent of a child's daily sugar intake. With excess sugar linked to childhood obesity and diabetes, that alone should be something parents take into consideration, but it's not the only hurdle.

"I say to my patients, 'Anything sticky is icky,'" says Dr. Alene D'Alesio, DMD, and program director of the pediatric dental department at Children's Hospital, Pittsburgh. "Eating gummy vitamins is truly like eating a piece of candy. It has about the same sugar content as a gummy bear, so they can really stick to the teeth."

That, unfortunately, leads to another dreaded issue: cavities. At this critical development stage, children are more prone to cavities, especially as they start to learn proper nutritional and oral hygiene habits, and the sugar stuck to their teeth can wear away at the enamel, creating oral health issues.

Another concern? Because these gummy vitamins look and taste an awful lot like sugary candies, it's also easy for kids to mistake them for a sweet treat and -- possibly take too much.

"They come in a child-safe bottle, but as most parents will know, kids can get those open, and because of that, there's a high potential to overdose," says Melissa St. Germain, M.D., and a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. "Overdosing on them can be extremely toxic. The vitamins can be stored in the fat cells, and can be very upsetting for the gastrointestinal track. It can be constipating or even cause a bleed, especially since you've overwhelming such a small body. That's a huge stress on a child's kidney and liver."

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For who do choose to use gummy vitamins, there are important steps to take. Look for supplements that have the word "complete" on them. They contain vitamins and minerals and can help balance a child's intake if it cannot be done through diet alone.

Parents should also take steps to ensure their kids don't treat the vitamins like candy.

"Keep them up high, somewhere where they can't reach them, and explain that they're there to help make kids stronger and healthier," D'Alesio suggests.

And finally, stress the importance of proper tooth care. "Kids should have them with a meal, and then rinse with water," D'Alesio says. "The worst part of these vitamins is the stickiness, and the bacteria then get attracted to that sugar, so rinsing is critical."

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If your children typically take their vitamins later, before bed, Dr. Homa Amini, the section chief of pediatric dentistry at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, suggests brushing with fluoride toothpaste after chewing a vitamin -- not before.

Those nutrients may be worth it, but you might be doing more harm than good if they're not taken properly.

Do your kids take vitamins? What kind do they take?

 

 

Image via Vogel/shutterstock

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