Multivitamins popular for children, adolescents

By Danielle Masterson

- Last updated on GMT

Getty Images /  borgogniels
Getty Images / borgogniels

Related tags Multivitamin Adolescence

While use varies by demographic characteristics, about one-third of children and adolescents used a dietary supplement in 2017-2018 — a conclusion consistent with findings in recent years.

The most recently released data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) is from 2017–2018. Researchers from Boston Children's Hospital and colleagues use this data to estimate the prevalence of use among American children and adolescents of any dietary supplement, two or more dietary supplements, and specific dietary supplement product types. 


The research team analyzed the most recent available data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which included 3,683 participants 19 years old or younger.

Trends were calculated for dietary supplement use from 2009–2010 to 2017–2018. During 2017–2018, 34% of children and adolescents used any dietary supplement in the past 30 days, with no significant change since 2009–2010. However, use of two or more dietary supplements did increase from 4.3% during 2009–2010 to 7.1% during 2017–2018. 


According to the report, 34% had taken a dietary supplement in the past 30 days, with females reporting higher use compared to males (37.3% vs. 30.8%).


Children aged 2 to 5 years were most likely to use dietary supplements (43.3%), followed by those aged 6 to 11 years (37.5%), 12 to 19 years (29.7%) and younger 2 years (21.8%).


Prevalence was higher among non-Hispanic Asian (41.1%) and non-Hispanic White children and adolescents (39.9%) compared with that among non-Hispanic Black (20.8%) and Hispanic (26.9%) children and adolescents. 

Income, education 

Trends suggest that dietary supplement use went up with increasing income and education of the head of household. 

Prevalence of use of two or more dietary supplements was 7.1% and varied by age, race and Hispanic origin, income, and education of the head of household.

Years past 

Comparing the 2017-2018 data with data from 2009-2010, the authors reported a significant increase in usage among those in the 12 to 19 year old age range, jumping from 22.1% to 29.7%.

Among all age groups, the use of two or more dietary supplements increased from 2009-2010 to 2017-2018, going from 4.3% to  7.1%. Among those aged 2 to 5 years, it increased from 6.8% to 8.3%, and among those aged 12 to 19 years, it increased from 3.2% to 8.5%.

Multis are popular

“As with previous studies, multivitamin-minerals were the most frequently used dietary supplement products,”​ the authors reported, with multivitamin-mineral products used by 23.8% of children and adolescents.

The prevalence of use of single-ingredient vitamin D (3.6%), single-ingredient vitamin C (3%), probiotic (1.8%), melatonin (1.3%), omega-3 fatty acid (1.3%), botanical (1.1%) and multivitamin (1%). 

Multivitamins remain popular for adults as well.

In 2019, researchers at George Mason University examined multivitamin use to usual nutrient intakes and nutritional biomarkers in American adults aged 51 years, classified by obesity status.

Like the adolescent study, this study​ also used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) to analyze micronutrient intake that was self-reported. 

Researchers concluded that a portion of the US population aged 51 years experiences nutritional inadequacies, with obesity somewhat influencing and/or contributing to these shortfalls. Sporadic and consistent multivitamin use is associated with more middle-aged to older adults meeting nutritional requirements for most micronutrients, regardless of weight status. Non-obese and obese users of multivitamins were more likely to avoid clinical deficiencies for vitamins B6, B12, and D. The study reports that multivitamins may be increasingly useful for older adults who are obese, as their requirements for vitamins B6 and D may be higher than the established dietary reference intakes (DRIs). 

The study also suggested age-specific multivitamins to serve as a practical means to increase micronutrient status and decrease vitamin deficiency in the middle-aged to older population, particularly those who are obese.

Monitoring nutritional intake 

“Because dietary supplement use is common, surveillance of dietary supplement use, combined with nutrient intake from diet, will remain an important component of monitoring nutritional intake in children and adolescents to inform clinical practice and dietary recommendations,” ​the authors of the adolescent study noted. “NHANES will continue to provide information on dietary supplement use among children and adolescents to help inform clinical practice and policy, such as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.”


Source​: CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR)

October 30, 2020 / 69(43);1557–1562

“Dietary Supplement Use in Children and Adolescents Aged ≤19 Years — United States, 2017–2018”

Authors: B.Stierman et al.

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