Disclaimer: None of the information in this article constitutes medical advice, and is just the opinion of the writer(s). We recommend that patients follow their doctor’s guidance in regard to vitamin supplementation.
Teenagers (and their parents) are often curious about what the best vitamins are for teens, and if any are really required. There's a significant amount of marketing from wellness brands targeted to teens, but teenagers are typically healthier than older adults as a function of their youth, so many don't require supplements at all.
Are there specific vitamins that can benefit teens more than older adults? Should teens just avoid supplements entirely? And when are vitamins necessary?
In this article we'll answer all of these questions as we share information about when vitamins may be necessary for teens and highlight two vitamins that may be good options for teens to consider.
When are Vitamins Necessary for Teens?
We don't typically recommend multivitamin usage, especially for teenagers or young adults. An extensive medical review published in the International Journal of Preventative Medicine analyzed data from over 100,000 patients and found that long-term multivitamin supplementation may be associated with a slightly increased risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease.
In our opinion, the context in which vitamin supplementation makes sense for teens is in the event of a documented nutritional deficiency.
Most teenagers get annual bloodwork done at their doctor's office, and many patients experience vitamin and mineral deficiencies due to a poor diet.
Teenagers that eat a low-quality diet including significant amounts of processed foods are at a higher risk of vitamin deficiency compared to teens that eat a minimally-processed diet rich in whole foods.
Below are two vitamins that it may make sense for teenagers to consider supplementing with.
Vitamin D3 is the better-absorbed type of vitamin D, and this can be a useful vitamin for teens to supplement with if they avoid the sun, or if they live at a high latitude.
Vitamin D is produced by the body in response to sun exposure and is an incredibly important vitamin. It’s required for hundreds of biochemical responses and also for proper hormone function according to medical research.
Teens may not get enough sunlight to optimize vitamin D levels, especially during the winter, and those living at northern latitudes can’t generate vitamin D for much of the year even with adequate sun exposure.
Research from Harvard Health Publishing shows that those living above the 37 degree latitude are at increased risk of vitamin D deficiency. This means teens living in cities like New York City, Boston, Seattle, Minneapolis and even as far south as Denver may be at increased risk.
Because vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, it can bioaccumulate and is unsafe in very high doses. For this reason, it’s always recommended to get a vitamin D test at a doctor’s office and work with the doctor to determine what daily supplement dose makes sense based on blood levels. The risk of vitamin D toxicity is low, but it's still good to determine blood levels before supplementing just to be safe.
The vitamin D3 supplement we recommend is NatureWise Vitamin D3. It contains 360 capsules and costs only $14.49 at the time of updating this article, which is a great price of $0.04 per capsule. This vitamin D supplement has a healthier formulation than most because it uses extra virgin olive oil as the filler oil instead of cheap seed oils. It has no questionable additive ingredients.
Interested consumers can check out NatureWise Vitamin D3 at this link to the product's Amazon listing.
Vitamin C is another vitamin that teens may benefit from supplementing. It’s necessary for proper immune system development and functioning, and because it's predominantly found in fruits and vegetables, it can be lacking in an unhealthy diet.
Most processed foods contain little or no vitamin C, so teens whose diet includes a high percentage of fast foods like pizza or burgers may want to consider supplementing with vitamin C. Of course the better option would be to simply eat a healthier diet, but if that’s not an option then supplementation may be a good idea.
It's also beneficial to keep some vitamin C around incase you get sick. As we documented in our review of Emergen-C, vitamin C supplementation is proven in medical research to reduce the duration of colds, and the effect is even greater in children than adults (18% reduction in duration for children versus 8% in adults).
The vitamin C supplement we recommend is Nutricost Vitamin C Powder. It currently costs $24.46 and provides 907 servings which equates to only $0.03 per serving. The only ingredient is vitamin C. There are no additive ingredients at all.
Interested consumers can check out Nutricost Vitamin C Powder at this link to the product's Amazon listing. We recommend mixing vitamin C into water and drinking with a straw because it's relatively acidic.
Do Teen Boys and Girls Require Different Vitamins?
Many supplement companies market their vitamins in a gendered fashion, which we consider to be unscientific.
We haven't come across any medical studies suggesting that teenage boys and teenage girls have different vitamin requirements, other than the fact that teenage boys have slightly higher daily requirements of all vitamins and minerals due to a higher average weight.
In fact, we would recommend that teenage consumers avoid vitamin companies marketing on the basis of sex or gender, as we consider this to be a red flag of a company that may prioritize marketing over efficacy.
Other Supplements for Teens
There are other supplement categories outside of vitamins which may be useful to teens on a case-by-case basis. Many teenagers in the U.S. work out regularly, and whey protein can be a useful and safe food supplement that’s well-studied and can improve strength and lean body mass in combination with weightlifting.
We consider whey to be a healthier alternative to popular sports nutrition drinks like Gatorade that are loaded with sugar and often marketed to teens.
Melatonin is another dietary supplement used to improve sleep. This compound is produced naturally by the body, but can also be taken in supplement form. It's clinically proven to improve sleep quality and duration, is non-addictive and non-toxic, and may be a safer alternative to prescription sleep medications.