It’s back-to-school time, and this year is different than any other previous as tremendous attention is paid toward children’s health and well-being – beyond vaccines and masks.
Although you can ensure your children’s diets are on the healthier side, today, optimal nutrition is available in stick packs, beverages, chews, and gummies, making it much easier for your children to develop strong bodies for enduring health.
Here’s a roundup of research that shows the benefits of vitamins and probiotics for children’s health – vitamins (including multis) and probiotics are acknowledged to be safe and effective for children.
All vitamins are good for growing bodies, and below is a summary of several studies of certain vitamins in children and why they are necessary to prevent future health problems.
Vitamin A is essential and your children must obtain it through diet. If their vitamin A content is too low for too long, they will experience increased vulnerability to infections. One research team performed a meta-analysis of vitamin A supplementation on a total of 200,000 children aged 6 months to 5 years. They found vitamin A supplements reduced child mortality by 24% in low- and middle-income areas. It may also reduce mortality and disability by preventing measles, diarrhea and vision problems, including night blindness.
Similarly, low levels of vitamin B12 in infancy and young childhood can increase cognitive struggles. According to researchers, their study suggests that vitamin B12 deficiency can impair and possibly delay brain development in small children.
Vitamin D, also called the sunshine vitamin is abundant for children who love to play outdoors, and especially in summertime. But, they may not obtain optimal levels during colder weather or if they enjoy spending time gaming indoors. Pregnant women may want to pay keener attention to how much vitamin D they obtain daily: one study found that vitamin D deficiency from birth to early childhood was associated with an increased risk of elevated blood pressure in later childhood and adolescence. Researchers followed 775 children from birth to age 18, finding that those born with low levels of vitamin D had an approximately 60% higher risk of elevated systolic blood pressure between ages 6 and 18, compared to those born with adequate vitamin D.
Vitamin D has numerous known health benefits, and in children. One interesting benefit is in overweight and obese children. According to the CDC, as of 1018, the prevalence of obesity was 19.3% among children and teens aged 2 to 19.
Vitamin D supplements may promote weight loss and reduce risk factors for future heart and metabolic disease in overweight and obese children, according to researchers in one study. Researchers assessed 232 obese children and adolescents for 12 months -- 117 received vitamin D supplementation. Levels of vitamin D, body fat, and blood markers of liver function and heart health were assessed at the start and end of the study. The researchers found that those children who supplemented with vitamin D supplements had significantly lower body mass index, body fat and improved cholesterol levels than those in the placebo group.
A newer vitamin showing up in research and in products is vitamin K2 (also called menaquinones, while vitamin K1 is phylloquinones). It has shown strong abilities to ensure healthy bones in children. Every seven years, the entire skeleton is replaced, a process regulated by osteoblasts and osteoclasts; osteoblasts produce osteocalcin, a Vitamin K-dependent protein that binds calcium to the bone matrix. One study showed that healthy children have the largest tissue-specific Vitamin K deficiency – eight to 10 times more inactive osteocalcin – followed by adults 40 years and older.
In another 8-week double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial, 55 healthy pre-pubertal children took 45 mcg vitamin K2 (MenaQ7®) or placebo. The study authors found that children in the placebo group displayed no significant changes in inactive osteocalcin (ucOC), active osteocalcin (cOC), and the ratio of inactive-to-active osteocalcin (UCR). However, those who took the Vitamin K2 supplement saw increased osteocalcin activation, the defining marker for Vitamin K2 status.
Probiotics are encouraged for children, as seen in the supplement aisle for kids. Brands such as Innovia and Childlife offer probiotic supplements specifically for children. And like vitamins, probiotics have been widely studied in children and for a variety of wellness benefits.
Researchers conducted a review and meta-analysis of three systematic reviews, 15 randomized, control trials and 13 meta-analyses of to summarize results of efficacy of supplementation of two common probiotic strains - Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG) and Bifidobacterium animalis subspecies lactis BB-12 (BB-12) in children and infants. The researchers found that LGG can reduce intensity of acute gastroenteritis (AGE), antibiotic-associated diarrhea, respiratory infections, otitis media, and functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorders including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). They write, “We propose that LGG can be safely administered to toddlers and older children to manage the symptoms of AGE.”
According to researchers of another study, twice daily supplementation with a probiotic may help reduce body mass index (BMI), in children with Prader-Willi Syndrome (characterized by insatiable appetite, leading to obesity). The probiotic — Limosilactobacillus reuteri LR-99 — also improved fine motor skills, and overall development in young children. The researchers concluded that these findings support the use of L. reuteri LR-99 in obesity and related conditions in PWS.
An 8-week study that gave 101 obese children and teens aged 6 to 18 a combination of Bifidobacterium breve BR03 and B. breve B632 led to significantly improved insulin sensitivity during fasting and after oral glucose tolerance tests. The researchers wrote, “The study demonstrated that 8 weeks of [probiotic supplementation] was safe, well-tolerated and efficacious in improving insulin sensitivity and supporting weight loss. The functionality of the microbiota seems to influence the metabolic answer to the probiotics, suggesting that tailored probiotic supplementations could optimize responses.”
Probiotic supplementation can also help children enjoy wellness benefits from a more fine-tuned immune system. For example, researchers in one meta-analysis of 17 studies found that infants and children were 53% less likely to have been prescribed antibiotics if they consumed probiotics daily.
This is a small sample of studies showing safety and benefit of vitamins and probiotics supplementation in children. This year, especially, children are dealing with higher anxiety than they did in the past because of the pandemic and world events. In addition to vitamins, multivitamins and probiotics, if you feel your child/children can benefit from a natural calm, chamomile is safe. According to this parenting source, chamomile tea has many benefits for children and infants, such as settling the stomach, boosting immunity, helping modulate allergies, and soothing colic in babies.
Back-to-school 2021 should be a fun, healthy time for children. Help set a healthy example by supporting mindful use of supplements, a healthy diet, exercise (tag football, anyone?), and of course, sharing what you both learned each day.