If daughter's diet is balanced, put a lid on vitamins


August 02, 1994|By Dr. Modena Wilson and Dr. Alain Joffe | Dr. Modena Wilson and Dr. Alain Joffe,Special to The Sun

Q: My teen-age daughter has a friend whose mother sells vitamin products. She's convinced my daughter that for good health she needs a dozen or so vitamins daily, plus protein powder twice a day. This stuff will cost me a fortune! Does she really need them?

A: Although adolescence is a period of rapid body growth, we can't produce any compelling evidence that your daughter needs any of these products. In saying this, we are assuming that your daughter is eating a well-balanced diet, something not all teen-agers do. If she is, the foods she is eating will provide all the essential nutrients she needs: protein, complex carbohydrates, fiber and vitamins. Under these conditions, the supplements this woman is selling are unnecessary and will be simply converted to fat or eliminated from the body.

In some instances, consumption of excessive amounts of vitamins has also been shown to be harmful.

What constitutes a well-balanced diet? You are probably familiar with the new food pyramid campaign of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The pyramid emphasizes that the major portion of our diet (the base of the pyramid) should consist of grains and cereals, fruits and vegetables. These foods supply fiber, vitamins, complex carbohydrates and some protein. Additional protein is obtained from eating moderate amounts of fish, eggs (beware the cholesterol-containing yolk), poultry or lean red meat. Sweets (refined sugars), fats and oils should be used sparingly. For teen-agers (whose bones are growing rapidly), dairy products or other sources of calcium are also important.

Some sellers of vitamin products or protein powders prey on individuals' fears that their diets are somehow inadequate or that supplements will make them extra healthy. Save your money.

Dr. Wilson is director of general pediatrics at Johns Hopkins Children's Center; Dr. Joffe is director of adolescent medicine.

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