Remember when you were a kid and your parents would give you Vitamin C for a cold? The deliciously sour orange flavour. These were what I’d nick from the cupboard before I discovered the liquour cabinet.

One of these is not like the other ones… Pic: Nic Gibson

Sales of kids’ vitamins were up 20 per cent last year. They disguise those nasty, healthy vitamins in kid-friendly packaging. In chocolate coating or hidden in gummy bears. 

The Blackmores’ children’s range is called ‘Blackmores’ little helpers’. Doesn’t every parent want a little helper?

The claims are bright, chirpy, and vague. There’s one for fussy eaters, one for immunity. Better concentration! Healthy brains!

As with any marketing worth its salt-free salt, it must leave consumers thinking if they DON’T get on the pill-popping bandwagon they’re leaving their kids without immunity, with lax concentration, unhealthy brains.

Create the need, then fulfil it.

The parents can’t escape responsibility, of course. Only one in five kids aged 4-8 is eating enough vegies. And whose fault is that? It must be hard to have fussy eaters, but a pill is not going to fix it.

There’s plenty of science around vitamin supplements. If you’re deficient and can’t get the nutrition you need from food, take them.  There’s some good – if mixed - evidence that Omega 3s have benefits.

Generally you should get everything you need from a proper balanced diet. You need the fibre, too, for a start. Vitamins are not a replacement.

They are everywhere, though. Overmarketed and oversold. Have you looked in your pharmacy recently? Reams of them, promising healthy nails, healthy hair, better memory. There’s one for ‘executive stress’ (I fell for that one. Well, there is some evidence magnesium can help).

Nature’s Own have a range for kids as well. As an aside the founder and former head Vaughan Bullivant owned two “palatial homes” on the Scarborough foreshore. He sold one, and now owns Daydream Island Resort and Spa.

Nature’s Own also run the ‘Vitamin Angels’ charity, which gives vitamins to kids in developing countries. Which is lovely. And good marketing.

Parents shouldn’t fall for the marketing. And the marketing should be more responsible.

Much of this is a symptom of our quick-fix society, where we want Priceline to stock the cure to all our ills. We want someone else to be responsible for our health, our happiness – we want to be able to buy the answers.

We have a big problem in this country with obesity, with children – and their parents – too often sitting around in front of screens eating crap when they should be running around outside and eating health, unprocessed food.

It’s a problem. But pills in brightly coloured bottles are not the answer.

Twitter: @ToryShepherd
Comments on this post will close at 8pm AEST.

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    • The Free HB says:

      12:10pm | 27/09/12

      Who’s to blame?  People like me.

      Sometimes having a busy life means that my kids don’t get 7 fruits and veggies per day.  I put benefiber in the milk to supplement their fibre. 

      I make them have a multivitamin every night before bed, like I do, because even when I eat clean. I have no control over the nutritional composition of the soil and ergo, the produce therein.

      There are very few sources of high lineolic fatty acids bar oily fish, flaxseeds and walnuts which don’t appeal to me or them, so w’all take fish oil tabs.

      Shock horror, we are exceptionally fit and healthy.

      We don’t live of cheeseburgers and fries, but we still miss the odd veggie and some times you have to “supplement” the nutrients you don’t get.

      Call me brainwashed, (and 6"1 - 5% body fat)

    • Tom says:

      12:28pm | 27/09/12

      5% body fat is probably as far from being healthy as you could possibly be. If you were, which you aren’t.

    • Anne71 says:

      12:48pm | 27/09/12

      The sad thing is that even with a diet high in fruit and vegetables, if you’re buying those fruit and veg from a supermarket, then chances are you’d get more vitamins from a piece of cardboard. Some of that “fresh produce” can be several weeks - even months - old before it reaches the supermarket shelves, by which time any nutritional value is long gone. 
      I’ve heard, though, that frozen vegetables are a good option, because the vegetables are frozen soon after picking, which means they retain most of their nutrients. Anyone know if this is true?

    • scott says:

      12:53pm | 27/09/12

      Maybe you would have more time to prepare nutritious meals for yourself and your children if you didn’t fritter away your time posting comments to news sites.

      Your body will not be absorbing all the multivitamins you are force feeding yourself, and all the supposed ‘benefits’ are being expelled from your body in your urine.  You are literally pissing money down the toilet.

    • Shane* says:

      01:03pm | 27/09/12

      “Call me brainwashed”


      You’re brainwashed.

      Chances are excellent you’re paying for expensive pee.

    • Porter says:

      01:06pm | 27/09/12

      All right Paul Ryan.

    • Gordon says:

      02:12pm | 27/09/12

      @Anne71, a balanced diet is good no matter how you get it. fresh is better than frozen is better than dried is better than canned but it’s all better than nothing. Believing that fruit & veges from the supermarket are without nutrition is just wrong: it’s all food. Humanity has lived well precisely BECAUSE we learned how to store or preserve food. Trust your eyes, nose and tastebuds: they evolved to tell you what’s OK to eat.

    • The Free HB says:

      03:04pm | 27/09/12

      Thanks Tom.  I also take Glutamine, Creatine and Beta Alanine and maintain a “pump” and very rarely ever get a cold.  I am so I ...are?

      Yes Scott, all the precious minutes I flutter away in the office during the school day whilst software tests run could be used to ....hold on, my kids do eat very clean and healthy.  What my point is that some days, with sport, extra curricula activities and family travel, the diet takes a blow and supplementing nutrients that run amiss is okay, doesn’t mean I’m a stupid consumer, I just don’t mind forking out a couple of bucks for nutritional insurance.

      Shane*  - I take great comfort in that pee coming from a physically imposing, exceptionally fit, good looking well to do man.  Better yet at 36, everyone thinks I’m still in my twenties.

      Buddy - I’ll take that shit to the bank and then my grave.

    • Em says:

      04:04pm | 27/09/12

      On the topic of fruit and veg that has been picked/harvested weeks or months earlier - I recently visited an apple orchard and learned some interesting stuff about how they preserve their fruit.  They’re treated with an ethylene inhibitor, which basically prevents the fruit from emitting the molecules that cause the fruit to ripen and eventually rot.  The ethylene inhibitor itself doesn’t remain on the fruit or anything, so it’s very safe.  It’s pretty cool.  In combination with cold storage, this technique allows fruit to be stored for several months (think the max is about 5-6 months but could be wrong on that point) before being shipped out for sale.  Anyway, if you’re interested, the ethylene inhibitor that I heard about is called SmartFresh (Google the name for more info), although there would be other systems as well.

    • food scientist says:

      05:04pm | 27/09/12

      The optimum body fat level is 15% for males and 25% for females. This is about the level of elite swimmers.

    • Lisa says:

      07:39pm | 27/09/12

      Agree with Tom.  Not only are you evidently not healthy you are just plain weird.  Imagine making your kids take a multivitamin - what did they do to deserve that??  They just need a glass of juice every day.  And don’t tell me you can’t get decent fruit and veg from the local market. If you seriously can’t then grow your own like the rest of us… In terms of fiber - ever heard of weetbix or sultana bran?  Or, if you are so inclined, which I imagine you are, try the organic muesli.

    • subotic says:

      12:15pm | 27/09/12

      pills in brightly coloured bottles are not the answer

      neither is smoking crack. or worshiping Satan.

      but, they work for me...

    • Jesus says:

      02:50pm | 27/09/12

      Spot on Kevin

    • P. Walker says:

      04:19pm | 27/09/12

      Jesus a second pointless comment.  You’re Mexican, yeah?

    • TheHuntress says:

      12:15pm | 27/09/12

      It really is interesting that people feel the need to give their kiddies vitamin supplements without actually consulting a healthcare professional. Sure, sometimes kids do need a supplement for one reason or another and this would generally be recommended by a doctor to meet a medical need. But even if kids aren’t getting 2 fruit/5 vegetables in their diet every single day, it is unlikely they’re actually deficient in anything.

      You’re right: vitamin pills in brightly coloured bottles are not going to solve the health ills of our kids.

    • AdamC says:

      12:33pm | 27/09/12

      I agree. What is quite remarkable about supplements is how timidly they assert any kind of benefit. If you read the labels on the bottles they say things like: “... may aid in maintaining a strong immune system” and “helps promote sound sleep”.

      Even the vitamin companies seem unsure of their products’ usefulness.

    • Tim says:

      02:20pm | 27/09/12

      The wording is for legal reasons. If the bottle says, ‘it WILL do this or that’ and the pill does not, they could get sued.

      I take a Berocca each day, and a valarian supplement each night. The valarian is one of the few types to be standarised, so the same amount of active ingredient is in each pill.

    • SM says:

      02:35pm | 27/09/12

      that’s all they’re allowed to claim, Adam

    • AdamC says:

      03:11pm | 27/09/12

      Tim and SM, exactly. Because the supplement companies are unable to back any health claims with proper scientific evidence, they are forced to hedge with weasel words and assert wishy-washy benefits. If vitamin manufacturers and marketers are not prepared to make serious claims and be accountable for them, why should we have any confidence their products aren’t merely feel-good placebos?

    • TheHuntress says:

      03:55pm | 27/09/12

      Absolutely, AdamC. The reason why this is, is that the supplement is only going to help if the body is vitamin deficient in some way. Most people are not vitamin deficient and just excrete whatever is in the pill - therefore unless the vitamin has been prescribed for a particular therapeutic reason by a doctor, it’s unlikely people will see any great benefit. In some extreme cases people do damage to themselves (ie. too much vitamin A in pregnancy causes birth defects or taking too much extra iron results in secondary haemochromatosis).

      If it make people feel good that they choose to give their kid a multivitamin, cool, but most of the time it is unnecessary.

    • Fiona says:

      06:17pm | 27/09/12

      I take omega 3 supplements, mainly because we don’t get as much seafood as reccommended. We do have some and I love it, but damn it’s expensive (cept for fish fingers I guess). I do see the benefits there, because my skin’s nowhere near as dry as without it and my fingernails stronger. If it does that, anything else is a bonus.
      Omega 3 has also been studied and shown to help children with concentration, so my youngest gets some too.

    • P. Walker says:

      12:28pm | 27/09/12

      So sad especially when people can’t work out that most advertising is possibly up to 98% BS.

    • Jesus says:

      02:55pm | 27/09/12

      Also sad when people take statistics on face value, usually within advertising. Are you a vitamin P.Walker?

    • P. Walker says:

      04:13pm | 27/09/12

      I expect with a comment like that Jesus, you are in the business of BS advertising, eh?

    • James of Fremantle says:

      12:32pm | 27/09/12

      When my little boy got a chest infection earlier this year, my doctor prescribed antibiotics and suggested that we give him some vitamins. They are the chewable fruit flavoured ones.

      He is an excellent eater who tries everything we put in front of him.We also grow lots of our own vegetables.

      When he looks a bit off colour now, we get him to supplement his meals with vitamins, as suggested by our doctor.

      I do not feel like I am brainwashed by any company.

    • vader says:

      02:46pm | 27/09/12

      Hi James
      I think you exactly make the point someone made earlier you are using them under medical guidance and not just willy nilly. You seem to have things pretty well balanced

    • @dynamic_drifter says:

      12:35pm | 27/09/12

      You gotta start the consumer behaviour early…in this case very early. How many of you remember the tv commercial jingles from your youth?

      In 15 years time, when these kids feel a sniffle coming on - they’ll head down to Coles (where prices are down), and grab some Blackmores.

    • free thinker says:

      02:53pm | 27/09/12

      down down

    • Scotchfinger says:

      05:06pm | 27/09/12

      what causes the monstrous growth of the hands of Coles staff? Blackmores supplements? And why are we not concerned about this???

    • P. Walker says:

      12:37pm | 27/09/12

      @The Free HB,
      wow 7 fruits and veg a day?  Hmm, where did you find that bit of BS?  From those peddling this rubbish!  Wake up, they will be fine and you a lot wealthier.  No wonder the CPI keeps rising…it becoming “normal living”, stop it!

    • Blind Freddy says:

      04:04pm | 27/09/12

      Once-upon-a-time it only took one apple a day to keep the doctor away - now it takes 7 fruits and vegetables?

    • P. Walker says:

      04:51pm | 27/09/12

      Well if you can put up some BS with an unreal expectation people will feel that they are going to end up seriously ill.  Who in hell does have 7 types, eh? 
      Then again the market growers put that out, fair enough, but the Blackmore’s crowd know its unrealistic so they then ride on their backs pushing chemicals for kids to suck up. 
      Plainly stupid, like the 7 full glasses of water a day putout by the bottled water mob.  In fact too much water at the wrong time can kill you.  I can get by usually with 2 glasses per day.  Like I said, create fear and the market’s yours.

    • Mahhrat says:

      12:46pm | 27/09/12


      Advertising.  It was the one thing L.Ron Hubbard had right (amongst an awful amount of wrongness).  Advertising is the greatest plague of the new era.

    • VJ says:

      12:49pm | 27/09/12

      We have a daughter who goes to the primary school. Myhusband and I are busy professioanls. We both need to work to meet the deands of today’s cost of living. No doubt we compromise on our food, We feel multivitamin tablets and omega -3 are god sent blessings. At least we are able to make up for our gap in our kids nutritition with these supplements.
      Further, what is the gurantee the natural foods are safe as well. Have we forgotted the Mad cow disease…
      Time to raise up and accept the modern world.

    • vader says:

      02:50pm | 27/09/12

      V J please go and have a look at yourself in a mirror.

    • vader says:

      02:50pm | 27/09/12

      V J please go and have a look at yourself in a mirror.

    • Question says:

      02:53pm | 27/09/12

      “My husband and I are busy professioanls. We both need to work to meet the demands of today’s cost of living”. Thread Hijack - I call BS. If you live within your means then you dont need two incomes to cover “today’s cost of living”. The cost of living is a roof over your head, food in your belly and working utilities. I can cover all of these and still have several hundred dollars to play with on payday, and I dont earn anything excessive (less than 65K a year) and am the sole breadwinner of my family. Im guessing by your definition of “today’s cost of living” you’ve mortgaged yourself to the hilt on a McMansion, have a loan on at least 1 expensive car and simply “must” have all the latest modcons (did you write this post on an iphone5 perchance?). Yeah, I hate posts like this…

    • Klak says:

      05:30pm | 27/09/12

      ^ what Question said.

      Or maybe spending obscene amounts on fast food, because you work too much and have no time for a proper meal. You work too much because you need to earn the fast food money.

      Its like a cycle of vicious stupidity or something.

    • Anjuli says:

      01:02pm | 27/09/12

      Growing up during world war 2 ,I remember having to take cod liver oil; and thick orange juice which was supplied by the health clinic,but that was all .Being on rations there was no fruit other than the few apples ,if we could get them, grown in the UK. every thing was in short supply ,so we grew all own veggies kept hens, mothers were very inventive when making meals so we never went without . The culture of not throwing food out which could be made into some thing else the next day has stayed with me to this day. As kids we were healthy ran around swinging off tree rope into the river ,riding our bikes down to the woods picking bluebells and blackberries there was no need for all the other vitamins they seem to be feeding the kids now, maybe it this is what has lead to the drug culture ,who knows.

    • SKA says:

      01:14pm | 27/09/12

      I remember my mother shoving so many vitamin pills down me when I was doing the HSC that my father and I used to joke that I rattled when I walked. That said, I’m a big fan of having fish oil tablets to supplement and do regularly have berocca - I actually find it gives me a big energy boost which is why I have it.

    • Babbling Brook says:

      01:16pm | 27/09/12

      what a load of rubbish…

      if kiddies eat a few supplements disguised as lollies who cares?

      we have to feel bad about stuff that is good for our kids as well as all the stuff that is bad??

      Think about it this way…

      The market represented by big fat consumers in Australia is driving innovation in the packaging and distribution of supplements. Right now kiddis in Australia are getting this stuff… but maybe in the years to come the current round of innovation will lead to an attractive and low cost way to package and distribute supplements at a very low cost to kiddies all around the world…

      By ‘package’ I mean ‘suspended in a jelly-like substance that preserves the essential value of the diet supplement while making it both durable and easy to transport as well as likely to be consumed by the target’ - I am not talking about the label.

    • MD says:

      01:39pm | 27/09/12

      Blame Phamacies, they are the ones who made a deal with one vitamin company (was it Natures Own? I can’t remember) to upsell vitamins with prescriptions and other medicines. Health is a business, everyone in it is just trying to make money like every other business.

    • Alfie says:

      01:57pm | 27/09/12

      Then, before you know…on they go to *other* brightly coloured pills. Never forget mums and dads, all herion addicts started out by taking the occasional toke. One thing leads to another.

    • TheBigMicka says:

      02:05pm | 27/09/12

      Having a vitamin C tablet every day has certainly stopped my 4yo daughter from getting sniffles, or a cold, or a bug every other week.  Or it could be that she’s gotten older, been exposed to more germs, and now has the antibodies to fight off more stuff.  Co-incidence or not, she’s still getting a Vitamin C every morning.

    • John says:

      02:07pm | 27/09/12

      We are, money has become the cocaine of the mass’s. They (dealers) basically shove all the krap down everyone throats these days to purchase their criminal materialistic goods. Then you have millionaires who already have enough money, pushing lines of krap to kids, elderly. It’s insanity. Money is the mark of the beast. All those who buy and trade shall take on the market of beast, we are nothing but capitalistic drones, enslaved and enslaving others into perpetual slavery, while the guys doing the remote control get a free cake. If it has bar-code, don’t buy it. The system is rigged against you. The people must free themselves from these misery white paper money addiction, stop snorting the stuff it’s destroying your soul.

    • C says:

      02:34pm | 27/09/12

      Either you submitted this comment from your own laptop or computer which would make you a ‘capitalistic drone’ or you’re submitting this from a computer from work, work which pays you money, money which is ‘destorying our souls’ and turning us into ‘capitalistic drones’ . By everyone not conforming, we are all conforming. If everyone did what you suggested (which was nothing or substance, really) the way you wanted, you still wouldn’t be satisfied.

    • Rob says:

      02:42pm | 27/09/12

      I wonder if they make a pill for people like John?

    • Black Dynamite says:

      03:32pm | 27/09/12

      Of course they do Rob, it’s called “the red pill”.


    • Inky says:

      03:33pm | 27/09/12

      I for one have never snorted money. After all, it’s too big to fit up there, and cutting it up is defacing currency which is a crime.

    • PAD says:

      06:27pm | 27/09/12

      Show me the beast!

    • Frank says:

      02:20pm | 27/09/12

      Your comment:reminds me of an episode of The Big Bang Theory when Sheldon goes shopping with Penny after losing his job where he comments that buying vitamins are essentially “purchasing expensive urine”

    • Gordon says:

      02:20pm | 27/09/12

      I reckon people can make up their own minds about what they feed their kids. I personally don’t see the need for general supplements but there are exceptions: Iodine in some places, fluoride in others.  I can say from my own experience that some extra fluoride is bloody good for kids teeth.

    • Momo says:

      05:32pm | 27/09/12

      Then drink tapwater. Or do you come from a state where this is considered “drugging the people”?

    • Anubis says:

      02:58pm | 27/09/12

      What really annoys me about the vitamin and supplement industry is their total lack of ethics. Yes they are charging a fortune for you to produce expensive urine.  Their environmental cred has taken a big hit now. They are cultivating a market for krill oil because they can charge more for it than basic fish oil. My problem with that is that they are now harvesting a major part of the foundation of the food chain. How sustainable is mass harvesting of krill when you take in to account their position (and importance) on the food chain?

    • willie says:

      03:03pm | 27/09/12

      The smart thing would be to check if youre deficient in anything before you spend money on pills.

    • Your name:KJ says:

      04:12pm | 27/09/12

      Good idea, but I dont think there IQ or critical thinking pills are available yet

    • baddog says:

      03:15pm | 27/09/12

      Vitamins are meant be supplements – not standards. The “bad/guilty parent” angle is a very powerful trip and busy parents will happily buy these (and a takeaway pizza) if it means they are Being Good Parents.
      I feel for the kids; told they’re not allowed chocolate but given “choc balls” and told these are ok.  Yep, setting them up for a lifetime of processed gunk before they’re even toilet trained. Have an orange or a glass of milk instead kiddo, it’s cheaper too!

    • ClaireB says:

      03:59pm | 27/09/12

      Seriously do journalists do research anymore?
      Whilst I support that parents need to be selective and careful about what they supplement in a kids diet, it is necessary - do some research into quality of food production, soil, GMO foods and the like - it is nearly impossible these days to get proper nutrition from food alone!

    • baddog says:

      04:34pm | 27/09/12

      @ClaireB. Oh please. If there were any truth in this statement companies would be waving the evidence around, frothing at the mouth with glee. We would all know about it, rest assured. “Nearly impossible” get to proper nutrition, maybe in your diet. I’m a vegetarian with perfect iron/protein etc levels. No supplements needed!

    • marley says:

      04:36pm | 27/09/12

      I’d love to see any scientific evidence that GMO foods are less nutritious than standard foods.  Or, for that matter, that a kid eating a balanced diet won’t get proper nutrition.

    • et says:

      04:08pm | 27/09/12

      Start feeding your children correctly and STOP EVERY excuse now! I mean it, don’t give me the whole -“Busy Mum’s and Dad’s” crap - or the “Healthy food is too expensive” crap… stop stop stop and look what you then can achieve.
      Lazy - excuse ridden people of society making your own children fat/unhealthy/vitamin bulls*** dependent.

    • Miles says:

      04:32pm | 27/09/12

      I think it’s the other pills - AKA methamphetamine - that we need to be worried about shoving down kids throats.  The astounding rise in their use is not without consequence.

    • Fiona says:

      06:35pm | 27/09/12

      Umm, methamphetamine is illegal, any way you serve it. I don’t see too many parents shoving that down their kids throats.
      Are you actually referring to dexamphetamine?  Yes there are some parents too willing to turn to medicinals for their child’s behaviour problems, but there is another party involved in them gaining access to these pills now isn’t there.

    • Johnno says:

      05:51pm | 27/09/12

      Diets in the 21st century are deficient in some respects compared with the 19th century. We now avoid nutritionally rich foods such as marrow (from bones) and cod liver oil and pretty much all offal. Brains, kidneys, livers, all those things your grandmother cooked.

    • The Stinger says:

      06:31pm | 27/09/12


    • Jenny Bean says:

      06:34pm | 27/09/12

      So… how many posters here have had kids in the last decade if at all? I’ll go toe to toe with anyone that thinks picky eating comes from laziness from a parent. Yes, some parents are lazy and work too much and have little to do with raising their kids. That’s not the case with everyone.

      Then, you have kids like mine. Princess of Picky Eating. She hates to eat. Sweets, fruits, veggies, meats… she doesn’t discriminate. If food is the wrong texture, it gets thrown up all over you. If its not thrown up, its choked on. You can’t force a child to eat. Believe me, I’ve tried. It creates a whole list of monsters to deal with, so don’t waste your time. I’ve also tried the eat what I make approach to end up with a child that would not touch food for three months straight. Could you sit by as a parent and watch your child starve to death? The more pressure you put on, the worse it gets. Can’t treat her with an IV or feeding tube, either. They get ripped out no matter how securely they are attached.

      I did things right from day 1. Did a lot of research and was well prepared. Made all my baby food at home. A week before she turned 1, she stopped eating solids. She used to eat everything I gave her. It was a sudden change that popped up in the middle of nowhere. She doesn’t know what junk food is and I don’t offer it. Four years on, she still doesn’t eat. 

      Doctors are boggled over what is causing it. All the test results we have done have come back negative. No allergies or intolerance. No cancer or illness. I’m far from being alone in this. There are kids popping up all over with the same problem. Its frustrating to see articles like this. Does it help at all to berate and degrade others- people you know nothing about? It must be nice to know everything and to have all the answers. Vitamins have kept my daughter alive. They are meant to look appealing so that even the pickiest of eaters will take them. Seriously, there are other dangers out there that could use some attention. There’s no need to guilt those that are already at their wit’s end.


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