About one-third of children are taking dietary supplements, and some of them have been associated with adverse events in this population.
Researchers reviewed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and looked at 4,404 children (up to age 19) from 2003 to 2014. They examined how often children used dietary supplements, including both nutritional products (e.g., iron, calcium and vitamin D) and alternative medicines (e.g., bodybuilding supplements such as creatine and whey protein).
Results, published in JAMA Pediatrics, indicated that 33.2% of children used dietary supplements from 2003 to 2014. The percentage of children using nutritional products didn’t change, but the use of alternative supplements nearly doubled, to 6.7%. The growing use of omega-3 fatty acid supplements and melatonin — the latter commonly used as a sleep aid — greatly contributed to the increase in alternative supplements.
Multivitamins were the most commonly used dietary supplements and are “implicated in preventable adverse drug events” among children. Also, alternative medicines — specifically melatonin and omega-3 supplements — are increasingly linked to adverse cardiovascular effects, including arrhythmias, that can lead to sudden cardiac death. Researchers consider this “a serious yet underreported problem in children and adolescents.”