As parents, all we wanted our children to be is both happy and healthy. The latter is especially important because having a healthy child can help create a happy child. But how you develop a healthy child really does matter. Healthy eating and exercise are the most obvious ways to do so, as they're both proven to be successful. There's also another thing to try that some parents swear by- dietary supplements.
Dietary supplements are growing in popularity despite experts warning about health risks. In the United States, according to one study, roughly a third of children within the country consume dietary supplements. Between 2004 and 2014, the use of herbal and non-vitamin supplements doubled in the U.S. It went from 3.7 percent in 2004 to 6.7. between 2013 and 2014. The supplements that are often most popular for children include probiotics, melatonin, and fish oil.
Despite the consumption of dietary supplements increasing in children, there are many issues with this slowly growing trend. The biggest issue is that these dietary supplements are generally for adults. They've been both designed and marketed for adults to use. Less than five percent of dietary supplements are actually made for children. Yet parents continue to give their kids products that were never made with children in mind as the consumer. Not only are the number of children taking dietary supplements increasing, but so are calls to poison control that are supplement-related.
The other major issue that the amount of information researchers have on the effects of dietary supplements on children is lacking. It's not just negative side effects that aren't known; it's positive side effects, too. Most studies that involve either herbal and/or homeopathic remedies often have design flaws. Throw in the fact that such products don't usually undergo randomized clinical trials, and that creates a pretty big issue in terms of safety for consumption.
But those aren't the only problems presented here. Parents who lean towards dietary supplements for their kids tend to use anecdotal evidence instead of reliable medical studies for research on the matter. Finally, the ultimate decision for a parent to administer such supplements can be skewed by certain factors. A parent's prior or current use of a dietary supplement or advertising from the aforementioned supplement are just some of the factors that can come into play.
There are many things to do in the face of this situation. Don't give your kid a supplement just because you're using it- it might not be right for them. Check out the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) online to see if the supplement is question is potentially safe for anyone, let alone a child. If you do use supplements, buy a good quality product instead of going the cheap route.
But the biggest and best thing you can do is talk to your pediatrician. They will more than likely have better suggestions for your child's health that don't involve taking a dietary supplement. Your pediatrician will know best on how to treat your child, and can also see if a more serious issue is present. After all, dietary supplements can't solve everything- but your doctor can very well try to address such issues better.