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Do Children Need Mineral Supplements?


mineral supplements, vitamin supplements

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I am writing this article as a sequel to my blog about vitamin supplements because I feel that mineral supplementation should also be a mindful exercise. The body uses certain components of the earth to perform many different functions. The macro mineral group is made up of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, chloride, and sulphur and they are needed in significant amounts, alongwith trace amounts of other minerals (or microminerals) like iron, manganese, copper, iodine, zinc, cobalt, fluoride, and selenium.

Also Read: Do Children Need Vitamin Supplements?

What is tricky with minerals is that too much and too less are both detrimental. Sodium, chloride and potassium are needed to maintain fluid balance in the body’s cells and they bring about vibrance in nerve and muscle function.

  • However, given the prevalence of packaged foods and snacks with preservatives, we need to today limit children’s sodium intake to reduce their risk of cardiovascular and kidney diseases in adulthood.
  • Chlorinated water and potassium (from bananas, tomatoes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, greens and legumes) maintain body fluid equilibrium. For example, muscle cramps on hot and humid days can be alleviated by eating potassium rich foods and adequate hydration. If your child is sick and eating little, these are well tolerated options.

Also Read: Salt comes Cheap, but Excess Consumption can Prove to be Costly!

Calcium supplementation helps in growth, nerve and muscle function and also builds bone strength, but is essential only during growth spurts (as in the infancy and adolescence) and is best taken along with Vitamin D.

  • Otherwise, dairy products provide rich and absorbable sources of calcium, as do greens and legumes.
  • Please encourage your adolescents to continue to drink milk.
  • Unless there is an underlying chronic disease condition, calcium is not to be taken continuously.

Too much calcium can cause nausea, erratic bowels and kidney stones.

Iron deficiency, is the most common nutritional deficiency in the world, affecting more than 30% of the global population. Many studies have found that besides anaemia, perceptual, memory and behavioural related problems occur when iron is deficient in the growing years, and the effects on the brain are irreversible. This is probably because iron plays an important role in the development of the cells that produce a substance called “myelin” which forms a sheath of insulating tissue that surrounds nerve fibres.

Also Read: Why is Iron Important for Children

  • It is recommended that iron is taken with folic acid (added to aid in the regenerative process during recovery) and that supplementation should be done daily for minimum of 100 days in the first two years of life.
  • It is also helpful for adolescent girls at the onset of menstruation.
  • Iron supplements are absorbed best when taken with a source of vitamin C, or on an empty stomach. They are absorbed poorly if taken with meals. Iron supplements should not be taken with milk or dairy products.

Also Read: Do Teen Daughters Need Supplements?

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Dr. Krishna Mahathi holds diplomas in Pediatrics and in the management of allergies and asthma. Years of working and interacting with children and parents have given her insight into developmental disabilities. She wishes that there was more awareness and acceptance of the issues that differently-abled children face and hopes that through this blog, she can enable thse children and their families to make sensible and informed choices.


4 thoughts on “Do Children Need Mineral Supplements?

  1. Kritika Srinivasan

    This is a super useful and informative post Krishna! I do have a couple of questions though. How can parents even get an inkling that their child may need mineral / vitamin supplements? If your child is not showing any symptoms of say iron deficiency, what can tip me off to the fact that she needs 100 days during the first 2 years of life, etc?

    Also, how can we find a balance between getting these essential minerals and vitamins from natural sources in the diet and supplementing artificially?

    Reply
    1. krishna

      Thank you Krithika. Regarding being aware of requirements I guess the only foolproof method is having your child examined by his or her pediatrician during vaccination visits.The time it usually gets overlooked is in the teenage years and that is why adolescent care and vaccination is a big priority.The guidelines in India are published by the Indian Academy of Pediatrics periodically and that’s a reliable source of researched information we apply in practice.

      Reply
  2. Kritika Srinivasan

    Please consider doing a series of posts, taking up one mineral / vitamin at a time, and explaining about symptoms that indicate a deficiency, natural sources, how to supplement. For example, it is useful to know that iron should be taken on an empty stomach or with vitamin C for better absorption, rather than simply knowing that our kid needs to take iron supplements! Would love to have a series of such posts from you – will be super useful for young parents.

    Reply
  3. krishna

    I think I will be able to do that,though it will be a challenge to not sound like a textbook.I was hoping to get queries on what I needed to expand on more and then pass on the information:)

    Reply

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