A leading paediatrician has expressed concern about the increasing use of 'gummy' multivitamins aimed at children, and is calling for a multi-organisational approach to inform the public about the misuse of multivitamins by children.
Associate Professor Susan Moloney, Director of Paediatrics at Gold Coast Hospital, says that companies worldwide are producing multivitamins in a chewable gummy form, often in the shape of an animal or caroon character, rather than as a tablet or capsule.
"These products have the appearance, taste and texture of a lolly and, combined with brightly coloured pacakging, are designed especially to appeal to young chidren," she says.
A/Professor Moloney considers that parents need to be vigilant as there is a risk a young child could overdose on a product that looks and tastes very much like a lolly.
She says that children may also experience unpreditable reactions as a result of excessive multivitamin use, including swelling and pressure around the brain, which can lead to prolonged medical treatment.
"Research also shows that children most likely to be given a multivitamin are the least likely to require one to combat any lack in essential vitamins and nutrients."
She says that sports and energy drinks use a similar method of appealing to children and young people through the incorporation of colours and recognisable branding.
"These drinks are often high in sugar and some contain large amounts of caffeine. Campaigns for these products may be tied-in with particular events or sportspersons, creating an association in children's minds that equates physical activity with a perceived 'need' for a sports energy or drink."
A/Professor Moloney said that a recent study from the University of Otago in New ZZealand found that a child exposed to sports and energy drinks in the context of sport would equate these sugar-sweetened beverages with providing the energy or hydration needed to play sport.
She recommends that parents should refer to the Australian Dietary Guidelines to make healthy choices for children.