The use of dietary supplements by an estimate 2.9 million US children is ‘moderate and appropriate’, according to a new survey.
The most commonly taken supplements were omega-3s and Echinacea, report scientists from Taipei Medical University and the National Taiwan University in Taiwan, and Washington State University.
“The relative popularity of Echinacea among children and adolescents is noteworthy, given the limited evidence of efficacy and the slight risk of adverse side-effects,” they wrote in Complementary Therapies in Medicine .
“The relatively high use of fish oil and omega-3 supplements is less worrisome, given the general health benefits of these fatty acids.”
Commenting on the study, Duffy MacKay, ND, vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs for CRN, told us that he agreed with the top line conclusions of the study, but said that most surveys show that multivitamins and vitamin D are the most used supplements for children. The authors appeared to focus their survey on the CAM-type products and not on the letter vitamins, he said.
“Regardless of this, the paper is a great contribution and we are pleased to see that supplement use was not cited as a replacement for medical care,” he said.
Indeed, the researchers note: “There is no evidence of substitution: children in households with health care access or affordability problems did not have significantly higher rates of herb or dietary supplement use.”
The researchers derived their estimates from the 2007 National Health Interview Child Complementary and Alternative Medicine Supplement of 9,417 children in the US aged between four and 17.
The results showed that 320 children were said to have used at least one of 45 herbs and dietary supplements in the previous year. This was equivalent to 3.4% of the sample. Extrapolating the results to the national US population led to the estimate that just less than 3 million American children and adolescents use herbs and/or dietary supplements.
This rate is considerably lower than the 17.4% found in the Adult Sample NHIS/CAM survey. The NHIS/CAM data is significantly lower than the figures obtained by numerous other surveys, which typically put dietary supplement use above 50% of the US adult population.
“Pediatric herb and supplement use was more common among adolescents and non-Hispanic whites, and positively associated with parental education and household income,” they noted.
The top five most used supplements were: Echinacea; fish oil or omega 3 or DHA fatty acid supplements; combination herb pill; flaxseed oil or pills; and prebiotics or probiotics.
“In general, these data suggest a pattern of moderate and appropriate herb and supplement use in the pediatric population,” wrote the researcher. “The two most popular preparations consumed, Echinacea and omega-3 supplements, have relatively good safety profiles, though their clinical efficacy remains controversial.
“These results suggest that clinicians need to inquire about herb and supplement use in daily practice.”
Source: Complementary Therapies in Medicine
August 2013, Volume 21, Issue 4, Pages 358-363
“The prevalence of herb and dietary supplement use among children and adolescents in the United States: Results from the 2007 National Health Interview Survey”
Authors: C-H. Wu, C-C. Wang, J. Kennedy