Deficient Kids? Study finds most pre-schoolers low in key vitamins

Health-conscious parents who feed their young children the same low-fat diet they consume for better health may inadvertently deprive their children of vitamin E, an important nutrient for growing bodies, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln nutrition scientist warns. A study of preschool-age children living in Lincoln, Nebraska, found two-thirds of them deficient in vitamin E. Surprisingly, one-third of the children also weren’t getting enough vitamin C, commonly found in such kid-friendly foods as orange juice.

Nutrition scientist Judy Driskell and colleagues tested 2- to 5-year-olds at four day-care centres. They drew blood samples from 22 ethnically diverse boys and girls to determine their vitamin E and C levels. Their parents also were interviewed to obtain dietary intakes for their children on two non-consecutive days.

“Parents are eating a lot of low-fat and non-fat products, and we’re finding they also give their children such things as skim milk,” Driskell said. “The low-fat diet is probably associated with their being low in vitamin E.” It’s likely the parents’ vitamin E consumption also is inadequate.

To get the vitamin E they need, she recommends that children regularly consume whole milk, nuts and seeds, regular salad dressings and whole-grain cereals fortified with vitamins. They also need to consume plenty of citrus fruits and juices for vitamin C.

“I personally would recommend that young children receive a daily multivitamin-multimineral supplement that contains the recommended daily values,” she said.

The study has important implications for the day-care industry, where many children spend the majority of their day, Driskell said. Several of the day-cares in this study fed the children potato chips and other unhealthy options instead of fruits, nuts and citrus products.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Mar 28, 2005