Better Nutrition Is On Your Plate - Not In A Pill


POSTED: Wednesday, June 23, 2010 - 6:06pm

UPDATED: Thursday, June 24, 2010 - 12:01am

It's a multi-billion dollar industry, but is a multi-vitamin worth the money? And when do supplements do more harm then good?

Marianne Favro has the answers in tonight's medical news.

Between homework and baseball games, the Ray family still manages to sit down for a healthy dinner almost every night. They're enjoying whole wheat spaghetti, turkey meatballs, salad and green beans. What's the payoff beyond the palate?

Tyler and his younger brother Travis both enjoy nutritious food. Yes, even veggies.

What did you like best? "Probably the green beans," said Travis Ray. The boys used to take a multi-vitamin.

"We really have stopped doing it because I feel like they eat so well now it's not necessary," said the mother Susie Ray.

Pediatricians say she's right.

"In a child whose eating well and whose otherwise healthy, I encourage them not to use any vitamin supplements," said .

But here in the Bay area where both work hours and commutes are long, few families have time to prepare meals like this, which may explain why they're buying up vitamins for their kids. It's a trend nationwide. The nutrition business journal estimates Americans bought $1.1 billion worth of children's supplements in 2008.

Registered Dietitian Lisa Richardson says it's dollars down the drain.

"A vitamin or mineral cannot make-up for shortcomings of a bad diet," Richardson said. She added that you'll get much more nutritional bang for your buck if you stock your cart with the colors of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green , blue and purple.

Need vitamin C? One cup of cantaloupe will meet your daily needs. That's because your body absorbs the vitamins in fruits and veggies much more efficiently than those in a pill. There are some adults who can benefit from a supplement - pregnant women who need extra folic acid, and some elderly who may need more B12.

And there's one more vitamin to consider.

"I like a D3 supplement because most adults are not getting enough dairy and they're not in the sun enough," said Richardson. But buyer beware. The Food and Drug administration does not regulate vitamins and taking too many can be toxic.

"If you were to have a parent who is giving their children kind of mega doses of vitamins," said Pediatrician Dr. Claire del Signore, "then yes, you could overdose on vitamin A. You could overdose on vitamin D and some of the B complex vitamins you could overdose on. Just one more reason you're better off getting your vitamins at the dinner table instead of the drug store.

Pediatricians do recommend some vitamins for kids who are extremely picky eaters and who may not get the nutrients they need in their diet.

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