About a third of U.S. children and teens take vitamins, even though most of those taking them probably don't need them, USA Today reports. Teens who have poor diets and need supplements the most are the least likely to take them. The best source of vitamins is a healthy diet. If you're a teenager who chooses to take supplements, do so under the care of a medical provider. Store vitamins in a safe location away from young children.
Adolescence is a time of rapid growth and development, making healthy diets extremely important. Yet teenagers are at high risk of poor eating habits, says Ulfat Shaikh, a pediatrician at the University of California-Davis School of Medicine. They often skip breakfast, eat outside of the home and choose sodas, snack foods and fast foods over fruits, vegetables and low-fat milk. Teens may also be resistant to pressure from others instructing them what and when to eat.
Because many teenagers have poor eating habits, Shaikh recommends you take a regular adult multivitamin. Vegans and other teens with restricted diets may especially benefit from a daily multivitamin. Multivitamins aimed specifically at teens likely provide no extra benefit, according to David Schardt, senior nutritionist at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Schardt also states that nutritional needs for adolescent males and females are similar, so there's no need for a multivitamin targeted for your gender. If you do take a multivitamin, be careful not to get more than 100 percent of the Recommended Dietary Allowance for each vitamin or mineral.
Teens should be sure to get enough vitamin D, especially if they don't drink milk. It can be difficult to get enough vitamin D from food. Vitamin D promotes bone strength and may prevent some cancers and heart disease. The Institute of Medicine recommends that teens ages 14 to 18 get 600 IU of vitamin D. The Institute estimated that teens get 400 IU per day, on average. The upper limit for vitamin D for teens ages 14 to 18 is 4,000 IU per day. Check the vitamin D content in your multivitamin to determine if you need an additional supplement.
Avoid Sports Supplements
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends those under age 18 avoid supplements meant for fitness, body building or weight control. Certain components may cause danger to the kidneys, liver and heart. Some have been found to include steroids or ephedra, a dangerous herbal stimulant. Androstenedione and dehydroepiandrosterone, or DHEA, "natural steroids" that can be broken down into testosterone, may lead to dangerous side effects like testicular cancer, infertility, stroke and an increased risk of heart disease, according to Teens Health of the Nemours Foundation. Creatine supplements can cause weight gain, diarrhea, abdominal pain and muscle cramps. Supplements with bitter orange or country mallow can cause high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and seizures.