Is Your Child Getting Too Many Vitamins?

Is Your Child Getting Too Many Vitamins?

Medically reviewed in December 2020

Mr. T, CP3-Os, and Urkel Os were cereals once marketed to kids (in case they craved angry, extraterrestrial, nerdy foods). Today, celebrity tie-ins include U.S. World Cup team member, Omar Gonzalez, for Fruity Pebbles. Really?

At least you know what Gonzales seems oblivious to: No matter how much you get paid for endorsing sugar-soaked, artificially colored, refined grain cereals, they’re still terrible for kids. But do you know that even seemingly healthful cereals can pose a risk to children -- if they’re fortified with adult-sized portions of vitamins and minerals?

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) looked at 1,556 cereals and found some contain more vitamin A, niacin and zinc than the Institute of Medicine says is safe for children. And many kids eat more than one serving of cereal daily, plus other fortified foods, and many take a multivitamin.  

The EWG also says among kids 2-8 years old who don’t take a multivitamin, 13% still exceed daily tolerable limits of vitamin A; 45% exceed recommendations for zinc; and 8% exceed that for niacin (from eating other fortified foods). Among children who do take a multi, the numbers jump to an excess of 72% for A, up to 84% for zinc and 28% for niacin! That can raise the risk of liver damage (from vitamin A), immune system dysfunction (from zinc) and rashes and vomiting (from niacin).

So buy cereals that include info on nutrient content levels for kids -- or stick with ones that dish up 25% or less of an adult’s RDA of each nutrient.

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