Nutritional supplements for height - yay or nay?
There are a lot of nutritional supplements in the market to increase your child's height. But are they really effective? Let's find out.
According to the data collated by BBC future, taller people are generally more successful in life. It is so because people take them more seriously, perceive their personality as more favourable and think they are more dependable. If that is the case, what parent would not want his/her child to be taller?
That said, it is not really easy to influence the adult height right during the childhood. The reason is, it is partially dependent on genetics. In addition, gender, nutrition, the level of activity in childhood, and environmental factors also play a significant role in the height of the child.
Here is a silver lining though: nutrition plays a huge role in the ultimate height of the child. And this is exploited as a marketing opportunity by many companies in the form of supplements to aid growth.
While certain supplements are marketed to increase height, they could actually harm your child.
Before I tell you what these are, let's find out about nutritional supplements in general and what is safe for your child.
This blanket term covers everything from scientifically studied Growing Up Milk to untested herbal concoctions from exotic parts of India, Japan, and China. In 2010, there was a widespread incidence of selenium poisoning in over 10 states in the USA, affecting more than 200 people including children. The reason - the concentration of selenium in one of the health supplements marketed for the 'entire family' was 200 times more than what was claimed.
While I do not want to enter the debate on the efficacy of traditional remedies, the ones in the market are not often checked for their quality and content. This is especially true for supplements that are not sold in pharmacies.
As a parent, I am really particular about what I feed my child. And I am sure so are you. So, for the rest of the article, I would take into account only those supplements that are studied upon for safety and efficacy. So, I would not be talking about fish oils. Instead, I would talk about the nutrients that you should look into if you choose to use one.
But, are they any effective?
There is abundant research that indicates that the deficiency of nutrients leads to stunting of growth. In a study conducted to assess the effect of deficiency of micronutrients on growth, it was found out that Vitamin A and Iron deficiencies in the early childhood can lead to a stunted growth if not corrected.
In another study, it was seen that 50% of apparently healthy children suffered from hidden nutritional deficiencies. The cause was picky eating, food preferences, and the quality of food in general. The first three years of life are crucial when it comes to development. However, it is very difficult to meet the recommended dietary allowances (RDA) by diet alone in this age group. So, nutritional supplements are necessary for this age group.
There are much more studies that reach the same conclusion: nutritional supplements are necessary to avoid deficiencies. But do they actually contribute to the growth in healthy children? A clinical trial conducted in Israel studied small-for-age children between the ages of 3 to 8 (height, weight, and BMI<10 percentile for age and gender). They were given a Growing Up Milk with essential nutrients. It was observed that there was a significant increase in the height of children who were good eaters - those who consumed more than 50% of the recommended formula intake.
This goes to show that nutritional supplements can influence the height of the child.
What to look for in the supplements?
The best way to help your child realise his genetic height is to ensure that he receives the recommended dietary allowances of the essential macronutrients and micronutrients. This means that he receives age-appropriate quantities of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water. However, if your child is a picky eater or is not growing as expected, you should discuss it with your paediatrician. If your child's body gets used to less intake of nutrients, it adapts itself by growing less than normal. This is known as Nutritional Growth Retardation.
However, if his growth is on the expected curve, you can add the following supplements to his diet
Zinc is necessary for the normal growth of the body. It is an essential component of genetic expression. So, it is important that the micronutrient is present in adequate quantities in the diet. Beans, poultry, some red meats are rich in Zinc. It is also found in fresh fruits.
To know more about Zinc, please visit the National Institute of Health's literature on Zinc here.
2# Vitamin A
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin required by the body in the growth mechanism. It helps in the normal functioning of lungs, kidneys and immune system.It is also required for a proper eyesight. It is found in abundance in meats, carrots, and dairy. Don't throw away the egg yellow. It is a rich source of this Vitamin.
By keeping the body relatively free of infection, Vitamin A helps in the normal growth curve. So, when your child falls ill less often, he has a good chance of reaching the genetic potential of the height.
3# Calcium, Magnesium, and Iron
These minerals are really important growing up. Calcium and Magnesium are important for the development of bones. Iron is important for the formation of Haemoglobin. Iron, though, requires supplementation only when the haemoglobin is low. So, don't include an iron pill if not indicated by the doctor. Remember though-Calcium inhibits the absorption of iron in the body. So, if your child is taking an iron tablet, don't give it with milk.
Milk is a rich source of calcium and magnesium, and so is cheese. Thus, don't forget to include that in the diet. Also, the ext time you visit, ask your doctor if your child requires Vitamin D3.
Supplements to avoid:
L-Glutamine, L-leucine, Alpha-GPC
There are many nutritional supplements that are currently in the market meant for an increase in height. These three are the most commonly marketed ones.
L-Glutamine and L-Leucine are amino acids are abundantly found in food. They play an important part in the growth process by participating in the production of proteins that build up the body. However, the safety of supplements with L-glutamine is not established in children.
An overdose of L-Leucine can cause pellagra in children. It could lead to diarrhoea, dermatitis, delerium, and even death. It is best to avoid unindicated supplementation of these products.
Alpha-glycerophosphocholine is a chemical that works on the brain. It improves coordination and is frequently taken by athletes to improve performance. It has been marketed as a height booster, however, the claim is not proven. An overdose can cause severe symptoms, and like the previous two, it is best left alone.
Mums and dads, Your kid has a set genetic potential to reach a certain height. The general idea is to keep your child active, keep him healthy and encourage him to eat a balanced diet. Use supplements only when your doctor indicates. Do let me know if you have any specific queries about any specific nutritional supplement in the comments below.
- Micronutrient deficiencies and linear growth: a systematic review of observational studies.Pedraza DF, Rocha AC, Cien Saude Colet. 2013 Nov;18(11):3333-47.
- Nutrition, infection and stunting: the roles of deficiencies of individual nutrients and foods, and of inflammation, as determinants of reduced linear growth of children.Millward DJ. Nutr Res Rev. 2017 Jun;30(1):50-72.
- Role of micronutrients for physical growth and mental development. Singh M. Indian J Pediatr. 2004 Jan;71(1):59-62.
- Study to Evaluate the Effect of Short Treatment With Nutritional Supplementation Standardized Innovative Formula, on Growth and Weight Gain in Short and Lean Prepubertal Children.
- National Institute of Health