2004-01-29 / Medical


By Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN

Questions & Answers

American Institute for Cancer Research

Young Teens Can Switch To Adults’ Vitamins

By Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN

American Institute for

Cancer Research

Q: At what age should my child switch from children’s to adult vitamins?

A: If you choose to have your child take vitamins, at age 14 they should probably switch to an adult formula. That is the age when the Recommended Dietary Allowances take a big jump. But if a younger adolescent girl has begun menstrual periods and lacks iron in her diet, it could be appropriate to switch her to an adult RDAlevel supplement at a younger age. Highdose products should be excluded. Calcium is the exception to the major nutrientneed increase at age 14. Recommend-ed amounts increase to 1300 milligrams (mg) at age nine. This amount can be obtained from a balanced diet with three-andahalf to four servings of dairy products or other highcalcium foods daily. If your child can’t meet this goal, calcium fortified foods or a separate calcium supplement is in or-der beginning at age nine. Also, if you drink well water or other nonfluoridated water, fluoride supplements (either as part of a multivitamin or separately) are recommended through age 16.

Q: What causes heartburn?

A: Heartburn occurs when the acid contents of the stomach rise up into the esophagus (the throat tube that connects the mouth to the stomach) and irritates the tissue there. Besides being uncomfortable, heartburn is be-lieved to increase the risk of esopha-geal cancer. Esophageal cancer has in-creased dramatically in the last 30 years. Smoking and obesity seem to be im-portant causes of this acid reflux. Some studies suggest that highfat meals may relax the stomach opening, making it easier for acid to get out. Other studies contradict this idea. It may be that overeating stretches the stomach and causes acid reflux. Individual ana-tomical or hormonal factors that have nothing to do with diet, weight or smoking may be the cause for some people. What we do know is that frequent heartburn does damage and should not be ignored or tolerated by popping antacids. Proper medical therapy can control the problem for almost everyone. But if an unhealthy diet, weight or lifestyle is the cause, it would be best to solve these problems, since they produce other negative effects on health.

Q: How much calcium is in calciumfortified cereals?

A: Products vary. Check the Nutri-tion Facts label for the amount of calcium in any specific cereal. The amount is listed under "% Daily Value." For calcium, the Daily Value used for reference on food labels is 1000 milligrams (mg). Many of the fortified cereals now provide 10 or 15 percent of Daily Value for calcium, which equals 100 to 150 mg of calcium in the cereal itself. Some cereals provide 25 percent (250 mg) to 60 percent (600 mg). Remember that these amounts are all based on the serving size listed on the label. If your portion differs, adjust these figures accordingly. Also, these figures are for the calcium in the cereal itself If you add a half to one cup of milk (and consume it all), that adds another 150 to 300 mg of calcium. While calciumfortified cereals contain more calcium than other cereals, even one serving of these can’t provide the recommended daily total of 800 mg (for children under 9 years) or 1000 to 13 00 mg for adolescents and adults. Furthermore, studies show that we effectively absorb only 600 mg of calcium at a time. Eating a jumbo bowl of fortified cereal with milk is not a recommended way to meet your daily calcium needs.

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