According to a new paper published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, few multivitamin products for children supply the recommended dose of 400 IU (international units) a day of vitamin D.
Of a survey of 91 different products available in the UK, supplements containing only vitamin D or labelled specifically ‘for healthy bones’ typically had a higher vitamin D content, although some products contained very low levels of the vitamin.
The daily vitamin D dose in the multivitamins surveyed ranged from 0 to 800 IU. Only one multivitamin was suitable for use from birth, supplying 200 IU/day of vitamin D, while for children over six months, only between a quarter and a third (25-36%) of the available products supplied at least 400 IU/day. Some of the products giving a dose range would only supply the recommended vitamin D level at the highest dose.
The vitamin D/healthy bones products supplied between 50 and 1,000 IU of vitamin D a day. Six were suitable for use from birth, five of which contained 340-400 IU of vitamin D. The vitamin D content of these types of supplement was typically higher than that of multivitamins: nearly two thirds (57-67%) contained at least 400 IU/day. But one product labelled as ‘for bones and relaxation’ contained only 50 IU/day of vitamin D.
Responding to the paper published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood which claims few multivitamin products contain the recommended daily dose of Vitamin D, Dr Benjamin Jacobs of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) said:
A normal healthy UK diet provides less than 10% of the recommended amount of Vitamin D. The natural way to obtain Vitamin D is from sunlight, but there is inadequate exposure to sunlight in the UK so supplements are the only way to ensure UK children get the recommended dose.
To learn that so many products fail to provide children with the recommended level of Vitamin D is highly concerning, especially when latest evidence shows our children’s average intake are still below the recommended amount. These products are misleading parents who think they are protecting their children from serious conditions such as rickets, poor growth and muscle weakness.
I would advise all parents to check that the supplements they use contain the recommended 400 units of Vitamin D and consult their pharmacist if they are unsure. However, I would like to go one step further. Fortification of certain foods and milk with Vitamin D, as done in several countries outside of the UK, will ensure better vitamin D coverage and protect the health of many more children without the reliance on these types of product. I call on the Government to consider this seriously.
In 2016, Public Health England recommended a daily dose of 400 IU (10 ug) all year round for all one to four year olds, and during the autumn and winter months for adults and children over the age of four.