Examination of micronutrients for children: their composition, the role they play in psychological well-being and parents' motivations for purchasing.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
Background: Micronutrient supplements are a formulae comprised of essential nutrients including: vitamins, minerals and amino acids. Objective: This study investigates the composition of micronutrient supplements and the differences found between micronutrient supplements used in child focused research and supplements available over the counter. This study also aims to explore the reasons for which New Zealand parents give their children micronutrient supplements. Methods: These areas are explored in two separate investigations. The first study begins by identifying the psychologically based micronutrient literature, then brakes down the vitamin ingredient composition of the micronutrient supplements that are found to significantly improve behaviour or cognition in children. These findings are compared to the composition of over the counter commercial micronutrient supplements. The second study had 365 participants and was carried out in the form of a web-based survey. Results: A number of studies were found that showed significant behavioural or cognitive improvements in children as a result of micronutrient supplementation. The median vitamin daily doses from the effective supplements were found to be greater than the daily doses found in the over the counter products. This difference was found to be significant for most of the B vitamins: B1 (p <.05), B3 (p<.05), B5 (p<.001), B6 (p<.05), B7 (p<.05), B9 (p = .001), B12 (p <.05). The difference was also found to be significant for vitamin C (p <.05) and vitamin D (p <.05). The difference between the research and commercial supplement median doses was not found to be significant for vitamin A (p <.3) or vitamin B2 (p <.2). The web-based survey revealed that New Zealand parent’s do not in general, give their children micronutrient supplements for psychologically based reasons. The most common motivation for giving their child a micronutrient supplement was found to be for the prevention of colds and illnesses. Conclusions: Micronutrient supplements that are effective in research with a child based psychological focus have in general significantly greater vitamin dosages than commercially available supplements. This indicates that the results found in scientific micronutrient studies may not be generalisable to over the counter supplements. Comparing the ingredients and dosages in micronutrient supplements is however, a complex process and further investigation is required. Furthermore, this research showed that micronutrient supplements appear to be given to New Zealand children for purposes that are not psychologically based, but are based more on physical health.