The Washington Post

BIG NUMBER

- — Linda Searing

Saying they are worried about their young children’s diets, roughly half of American parents — 52 percent — regularly give their children some type of dietary supplement, according to the University of Michigan’s National Poll on Children’s Health. Based on data from a nationally representa­tive sample of 1,251 parents with at least one child 1 to 10 years old, the research found that an additional third of the parents say their children have tried supplement­s but do not routinely take them. When asked why they have turned to supplement­s, common responses from parents were that their children are picky eaters, that they do not eat enough fruits and vegetables, and that what they do eat does not give them enough vitamins, minerals and fiber. The most popular supplement­s for young children were found to be multivitam­ins, given by 75 percent of parents. Others frequently given include specific vitamins or minerals, probiotics and omega-3s. The researcher­s found that most parents (80 percent) say they choose supplement­s made specifical­ly for children, but less than half of the parents (43 percent) have discussed supplement use with their child’s doctor. In their report, the researcher­s urge parents to consult with a pediatrici­an or other health-care provider to make sure specific supplement­s, and their dosage, are appropriat­e and safe for their children. Dietary supplement­s — considered food, not medicine — are not tested and approved by the Food and Drug Administra­tion before being marketed. Health and nutrition experts agree that the best way for youngsters to get needed nutrients is through a well-balanced diet. Acknowledg­ing that achieving this can be tricky, their tips for healthy eating by youngsters include having regular family meals, getting children involved in meal planning and having healthy snacks available. They also urge parents to become healthy-eating role models.

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