February 7, 2023

Angela Onwuzoo 

Medical experts have cautioned mothers against giving their children excess multivitamins, warning that it could serious health problems.

According to them, giving children vitamin A in excess quantities can affect the brain and even lead to convulsions.

They noted that what children need to grow and thrive is appropriate and good nutrition and not dietary supplements.

Mayo Clinic says taking high doses of vitamin A supplements could also cause liver damage. 

“Combining high doses of vitamin A supplements with other drugs that can damage the liver could increase the risk of liver disease.

“Too much vitamin A can be harmful and excess vitamin A during pregnancy has been linked to birth defects,” Mayo Clinic says.

The physicians stated this during exclusive interviews with Reportr Door Healthwise, urging parents to see children as human beings and not disease entities.

Speaking with our correspondent, a Professor of Paediatrics at the Department of Paediatrics, College of Health Sciences, University of Ilorin, Kwara State, Olugbenga Mokuolu, said except there is a particular deficiency, children don’t need routine nutrition supplements.

Prof. Mokuolu, who is also a Consultant Paediatrician at the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital, said it is wrong to give children multivitamins to improve their appetite.

The paediatrician explained, “Generally, vitamins are safe. As I said, you can take vitamins for what they are. They are very useful, they help to control maybe abnormal products during body reaction and they are also necessary for body growth. 

“Vitamins are a class of drugs and there are varieties of them with different consequences. 

“So, when you say vitamins, you are not just referring to one drug. So, you have vitamin A, you have what is called vitamin B complex which has several subsidiaries under it, you have vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E and then you have vitamin K. So, there are different classes of vitamins.

“Anything for instance that has vitamin A, you want to ensure that it is not taken in excess. It can affect the brain and it can make a child convulse when taking in excess quantities.’

The researcher noted that when dietary supplements are given for the wrong reasons, it defeats their usefulness, adding, however, that most vitamin supplements available are vitamin B and not A.

“But most of the vitamin products that are being sold, luckily, are usually in the vitamin B category and this is why we have not been recording consequences from the level of use that people have subjected it to. 

“We thank God they are relatively safe compounds but not all of them. When given in excessive quantities, they can begin to give some babies problems.

“We should be careful with all of these things. Babies are human beings and not a disease. Human beings are human beings. What they need is to be fed correctly. Some of these dietary supplements contain substances that when taken in small quantities according to how they are present in the body are very useful. 

“But if you begin to give them as supplements, they are not necessarily adding to that usefulness,” he said.

According to him, children don’t need all those supplements but appropriate nutrition.  

He reiterated, “What children need are good nutrition and a healthy diet.

“Children should be given a homemade diet. If you are giving your child a homemade diet, some foods are green, white, red and those like oil. Any food you are giving to your child, let it have this mix. Except there is a particular deficiency, children don’t need routine nutrition supplements.”

Continuing, the child health expert said it is wrong to think that multivitamins improve appetite.

Mothers, he said, need to understand that children are human beings and they have a way of behaving. 

“Their behaviour and preferences are to be understood and they can be properly persuaded. Hunger is a great appetizer

“Multivitamins are not generally harmful but using them as multivitamins should be for different reasons. 

“If it is for appetite, that is the wrong reason. If a child is sick, the child needs to be treated and when they recover from treatment, their appetite will be restored. 

“If a child is active and playing but refuses a particular food item, such a food cannot be forced on the child by administering multivitamins,” he said.

Prof. Mokuolu stressed that drugs should be used for the right reason. 

“A baby is not a disease. Human beings do not survive on drugs, they survive on nutrients, cleanliness, fresh air, and good activities. 

“Under some circumstances, some babies might, however, need vitamin supplements,” he said.

Also, a Professor of Public Health Nutrition with the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, Beatrice Ogunba, said parents should avoid giving their children surgery foods.

The nutritionist stated that some foods and beverages had been identified by the World Health Organisation and the United Nations Children’s Fund as unhealthy for consumption during complementary feeding. 

Complementary feeding, Prof. Ogunba explained, starts when breast milk alone is no longer sufficient to meet the nutritional requirements of infants, adding that from that point, other foods and liquids are needed, along with breast milk to meet the nutritional needs of the baby.

According to the WHO, after six months of age, it becomes increasingly difficult for breastfed infants to meet their nutrient needs from human milk alone.

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