Dietary Supplements: When are they necessary for children?

by Nektaria Karakosta

Do children need dietary supplements? How can parents select the right product? What needs do dietary supplements cover in children and adolescents? Dr Maria Tzitiridou-Hatzopoulou, paediatrician-neonatologist gives us the answers.


Proper nutrition is certainly the cornerstone for a child’s normal psychosomatic development and future health in adult life.

Scientific studies have shown that, even in western countries where food variety is taken for granted, nutritional errors and deficiencies do occur. Time constraints for working mothers have forced them to consume packaged foods and to follow a monotonous daily diet.

Supplements can in many cases cover any dietary deficiency in useful nutrients.

Which children have greater need for them? As Dr Tzitiridou-Hatzopoulou, paediatrician-neonatologist, notes, supplements are particularly useful in children that:


  • have no variety in their diet
  • suffer from chronic diseases which cause reduced caloric intake or deficient absorption of nutrients (children under immunosuppression, with congenital heart diseases, kidney diseases, malabsorption syndromes etc.)
  • live in areas with insufficient water fluoridation
  • live in areas with limited sunshine
  • are “picky” and follow a limited, selective diet
  • girls who have started menstruation
  • suffer from food allergies and so avoid certain foods
  • are under systemic medication, e.g. diabetic children


If your child belongs to one of the above groups, then it might need certain vitamin, mineral and trace element supplements to help cover its needs.


► The “terrible twos”

Particular care is necessary during the first two years of a child’s life, because brain development is very rapid in that time, and also because the number of cells is increasing in all of the body’s systems, especially the nervous system, the brain and the spinal cord.

In this period, i.e. until the age of 2, children often present a so-called “food neophobia”, characterised by reluctance to try or tendency to avoid new foods.

A child that, just a few weeks earlier, would be called “easy” to feed, might suddenly start to stubbornly refuse to try new foods and dishes. This usually involves fruit and vegetables, as well as protein-rich foods like fish, chicken and cheese.

Another similar condition is what we call “picky eating”: In addition to being reluctant to try new foods, the child might also start avoiding entire food groups and show a strong preference regarding the manner of food preparation and presentation.

Even in cases that wouldn’t be described as “neophobias” or “picky eating”, many children will eat a large variety of foods but will avoid fruit, vegetables or dairy products, i.e. foods rich in vitamins and trace elements, and show instead particular preference for fast foods and snacks which contain sugar, salt and chemical preservatives.

Parents who want to satisfy their children’s need in energy and nutrients, thus ensuring their best possible development, might find the best solution in a children’s multivitamin product which will fill any deficiencies in vitamins, minerals and trace elements.


► What should I choose?

This is the most important question for the parent who’s at the pharmacy looking for a supplement for their child. As Dr Tzitiridou-Hatzopoulou explains, “Parents should select supplements which (a) are sold exclusively in pharmacies, (b) list the concentration of each ingredient in their labelling, (c) are designed specifically for children, (d) have been approved for sale in Greece (i.e. they bear a notification number by the National Organisation for Medicines), and (e) are produced by reputable companies.

What should parents keep in mind when administering the supplement? “They should avoid giving excessive amounts of supplements, which exceed the recommended daily dose”, explains our expert. ||



who is who

Maria K. Tzitiridou-Hatzopoulou is a paediatrician-neonatologist specialising in developmental paediatrics. She studied at the Medical School of the Aristotle University of Thessalonica (AUTH) and then specialised in paediatrics at the Paediatric Polyclinic of the Ludwig-Maximilians Universität in Munich, Germany. She remained there for training in developmental paediatrics. In 2004 she received her doctorate degree from the Medical School of the AUTH. She has participated in further education seminars on developmental testing/evaluation at the Deutsche Akademie and numerous other similar seminars. She has been EEG-certified by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Klinische Neurophysiologie. She has co-authored papers, book chapters and posters for national and international seminars and conferences. She maintains a private practice in paediatrics - child development and is also a partner at the GENERAL CLINIC of the EUROMEDICA Group in Thessalonica.

74, Ethnikis Antistaseos str., Sigma Block 1, Kalamaria, Thessalonica, Greece

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