Saturday, November 21, 2009

Supplementation benefits preschoolers

We celebrated Yasmin's 5th birthday today. A gaggle of screaming girls invaded our suburban peace fueled by an overdose of sugar and food colorings.

Reading tonight about papers that will be published in December's Journal of Clinical Nutrition a paper caught my eye about supplementation and allergic reactions in 8 year olds. The study investigated 2423 Swedish children for supplementation habits and allergic reactions.

In this study there is a few major issues. Firstly collecting data from adults about things that happened years ago can lead to errors. For instance can you remember when or if you supplemented vitamins to your kids 3 years ago? And how regularly you feed them? The human mind is often very poor at accurately recalling this type of data.

Secondly and maybe most importantly it lumps all multivitamins into one group. If you answered that you fed your children multivitamin your kids would go in the supplementation group. However this completely ignores the supplement quality. For instance poor quality supplements often not include vitamin B12 as it is expensive. Another example is bioflavonids/compressed plant extracts. Vitamin C is used better by the body when it also has bioflavonids/plant extracts with the vitamin C. Another important indicator of supplement quality is the level of the nutrients. I once read a calcium supplement label that had used different units. Calcium supplements should also have magnesium in them, at approximately 50% of the calcium level. For example this supplement had 500mg of calcium and 250μg of magnesium. At first glance this appears to be the right ratio until one realizes that 250μg is actually 0.25mg. So it virtually had no magnesium in the supplement compared to the calcium. Thus the level of vitamin C which has an anti-inflammatory property is unknown.

Thus with these design constants of the study we would expect that any advantage of multivitamin use will be diluted out due to the error/noise in the data caused by the above mentioned factors. Thus it is not surprising that multivitamin use does not decrease allergy in the 8 year olds.

However what is very interesting is that:
[Children who] started taking multivitamins before or at age 4 y had a decreased risk of sensitization to food allergens

This makes me feel good that our girls all had supplements from a young age. It is very interesting to see that increase in vitamin intake before four years old reduced food allergy's. I wonder why this is? There could be a number of reasons. It could be that parents who give supplements to their children are very health conscious so they raise their children with a healthy lifestyle eg exercise, fresh vege's, limited food additives, emotional wellbeing, etc etc thus these children are less likely to have allergic reactions. Or it could be a biochemical effect. That one or more of the vitamins are used by the body to reduce the inflammation pathways found in the body.  My guess is on the second.

Update: After discussion with Tiffany we realized that for Trinity, or middle child, we didn't purchase formula. We made our own up by placing a multivitamin in with her milk at the start of the day. We would use the same cup for the whole day so by the end of the day the majority would be gone. Must have tasted rather gross but she thought it was normal :) Yasmin who has just turned five was breast feed uptil she was a year old, so we went to a chewable multivitamin plus formula.

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