benefits of multivitamins
Health and safety

Vital benefits of multivitamins

The thinking in the past was that multivitamins were a must when there was an ‘r’ in the month, but the reality is that many families need multivitamins at any time of the year.

So what should we be taking and waht exacly are the benefits of multivitamins?

As technology and social media has a huge impact on our lives, both adults and children are leading more sedentary lifestyles, with many missing out on vitamin D.

Dubbed ‘the sunshine vitamin’, it’s vital for healthy bones and teeth. Vitamin D should be given daily from birth until one year of age, according to midwife, Gráinne Grundy. Some foods are fortified with vitamin D but most of what the body gets comes from exposure to sunlight. The importance of vitamin D has been highlighted recently, with reports that rickets are being seen again in hospitals around the world. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked with an increased risk of heart attack and Alzheimer’s disease.

In children, it’s not essential by itself for bone health, but it does reduce the risk of developing Type I diabetes later in life, as well as multiple sclerosis. Vitamin D deficiency has been said to increase the risk of preeclampsia in pregnant women.

Drinking fortified milk will increase your intake as well as providing calcium, which is a vital component for bone health, growth and development. “Any vitamins given should be age appropriate and kept out of the reach of young children as they often look like sweets, so safety should be borne in mind,” advises Gráinne.

With many adults and children not getting an adequate intake of vitamins in their diets, and some young children being poor or fussy eaters, GPs and pharmacists often advise multivitamins to fill the gap. Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin, which means it can’t be stored in the body, so it’s required in our daily diet. It’s important for healthy cells, skins, bones and blood vessels. It also assists with wound healing and boosts the amount of iron we can absorb from plant sources such as broccoli and sprouts.

One of the many antioxidants that can protect against damage from harmful molecules known as free-radicals, which are thought to build up in the body, causing heart disease, cancer and arthritis, vitamin C is also believed to protect against toxic chemicals and pollutants such as cigarette smoke.

With many families, particularly young children, not getting their ‘five a day’ intake of fruit and vegetables – which are also the best sources of dietary fibre – and eating large amounts of processed food, vitamin C can be lacking.

If your child is taking any medication, check with your GP before taking multivitamins. Having too much of some vitamins can be harmful so it’s important to stick to the recommended dosage.

Otherwise, at a time when families are leading increasingly hectic lives, a multivitamin or mineral supplement can provide a welcome boost, particularly for children who aren’t eating regular well-balanced home cooked meals, those who play a lot of sports, and fussy eaters who consume very little.

Around exam time, omega 3 fatty acids play a key role, as they have been hailed as brain boosters. Sources include fish oils, eggs, dairy products and walnuts.

Other important vitamins:

There are lots more critical vitamins and minerals for children, including:

• Vitamin A is needed for growth and development, tissue and bone repair and healthy skin, eyes and immunity.

• The family of B vitamins help metabolism, energy production, healthy circulatory and nervous systems and is particularly important for vegetarians.

• Iron builds muscle and is vital for the creation of healthy red blood cells. Teenagers, especially girls, can be prone to iron deficiency.

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Ask Sarah

Q I’ve heard a lot about the Paleo diet and as I am very interested in reducing the amount of processed foods and grain based meals my family eats, we are considering following this diet. From what I read it seems to be a back-to-basics type of eating. Is a Paleo diet safe for children? My kids are aged seven and nine.

A The Paleo diet is one of the most fashionable diets around at the moment. It is also known as the ‘caveman diet’ and is based on cutting out processed foods, starchy foods like bread and potatoes and eating more meat, vegetables and fruit.
As fad diets go, it is not the worst but there are some good and bad sides to it. Reducing the amount of processed foods we eat is always a good idea and by doing that you will usually reduce the amount of fat, salt and sugar you eat, which is a good thing! The problem with the Paleo diet is that it also cuts out dairy (on the basis that cavemen didn’t drink milk) and this means that the diet is very low in calcium. For this reason it is really not suitable for children who do need a lot of calcium for growing bones. How did cavemen manage without dairy? They ate a lot more food than we do (up to 10,000 calories per day compared to the 2,000 most of us eat). By eating that amount of food they were able to pick up just enough calcium from green vegetables and seeds. To put it in perspective, you would need to eat 16 servings of broccoli a day to get all the calcium you need. This is easier to do if you eat 10,000 calories per day rather than 2,000.
The other problem with the paleo diet is that it is not entirely based in science. Many of the Paleo diets out there say you should not eat wheat, even though we know that cavemen did in fact eat wheat and other grains. These diets also don’t recommend that you eat blubber and the big lumps of fat that were also a large part of the caveman diet!
A final problem is that many Paleo diets encourage people to cut out beans and lentils and to get their protein from meat and fish instead. Many studies over the last few years are clear that eating too much animal protein is linked with more cancer and heart disease. Eating some vegetarian meals based on beans and lentils is a great way to get your protein without always going for meat.
Is this a diet we should follow? I think there is a lot we can learn from the Paleo diets. We could all do with eating less salt, sugar and processed foods and adding in more nuts and seeds as well as more vegetables. However, I think following a strict Paleo diet could lead to low levels of calcium and vitamin D and so it is not suitable for children or teens and adults would need to think about a calcium supplement.



Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

AThere is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….