Dietary supplements

The most important factor in determining whether or not a child should be taking dietary supplements is to clarify the term.
In the United States, a dietary supplement is defined under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA) as a product that is intended to supplement the diet and bears or contains one or more of the following dietary ingredients:

  • a vitamin
  • a mineral
  • an herb or other botanical (excluding tobacco)
  • an amino acid
  • a dietary substance for use by people to supplement the diet by increasing the total dietary intake, or
  • a concentrate, metabolite, constituent, extract or combination of any of the above

By this definition, a supplement can be products such as vitamins, nutrition bars, high calorie shakes, protein shakes or basically anything that “supplements” a meal. With this perspective, many items can be interpreted as appropriate for children.
However, the National Alliance for Youth Sports recommends that children only consume dietary supplements specifically designed for children. Examples of such products are cereal bars, snack bars or one-a-day vitamins. Fortified bars, drinks or shakes designed for children are appropriate as well.
Nutritional supplements or foods specifically designed for adults are usually not appropriate for children and should be avoided.