Best Vitamins for Teens: Do Teens Need Supplements?

Best Vitamins for Teens: Do Teens Need Supplements?


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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 even necessary. A number of wellness brands target teens with their marketing, but teens are generally healthier than other population groups as a function of age.

But are there specific vitamins that can benefit teens more than older adults? Should teens avoid supplements entirely? When are vitamins necessary? And do teen boys and girls require different vitamin intakes?

In this article we'll answer all of these questions and more, as we share our opinion on whether or not vitamins are necessary for teens, and whether teen boys and teen girls require differing supplementation strategies.

We'll highlight research on two vitamins that may be beneficial for teens in certain cases, and two other (non-vitamin) supplements that may be worth considering.

Do Teens Even Need Vitamins?

We don't typically recommend multivitamin usage, especially in teenagers or young adults.

An extensive medical review published in the International Journal of Preventative Medicine analyzed data from over 100,000 individuals 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 poor dietary choices.

Teenagers who eat a low-quality diet including significant amounts of "processed" foods may be at a higher risk of vitamin deficiency compared to teens who eat a minimally-processed diet rich in whole foods.

In the next two sections of this article, we'll discuss two individual nutrients that it may make sense for teenagers to consider supplementing with.

Vitamin D3

Vitamin D3 is the better-absorbed form 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 naturally 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 line are at an 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 an 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 regular vitamin D tests at a doctor’s office and work with the doctor to determine what supplement dose makes sense based on blood levels. The risk of vitamin D toxicity is low, but it's still good to be cautious.

Momentous Vitamin D3 is our top vitamin D3 supplement because it's highly affordable (under $13 at a subscription rate at the time of updating this article), and free of any unhealthy additive ingredients.

Momentous' supplement contains a relatively high vitamin D dose (5,000 IU) making it more cost-efficient per unit, but it may not need to be used daily.

A YouTube creator named Eric Berg has a video suggesting that low vitamin D levels may be linked with depression in teens:

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is another vitamin that teens may benefit from supplementing.

This vitamin is necessary for proper immune system development and function, and because it's predominantly found in fruits and vegetables, it can be lacking in a teen's 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.

The better option would be to simply eat a healthier diet, but if that’s not an option then supplementation may be beneficial.

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).

Pique Daily Radiance is our top premium vitamin C supplement, because it provides 1,000 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C per serving, and also contains organic elderberry juice concentrate (which is clinically shown to support the immune system).

Nutricost Vitamin C Powder is our top affordable vitamin C supplement, because it costs under $0.03 per serving at the time of updating this article, and its only ingredient is vitamin C (no unhealthy additives).

Teen Boys vs. Teen Girls

Many supplement companies market their vitamins in a sex-specific manner, which we consider to be unscientific.

We haven't come across any medical studies suggesting that teenage boys and teenage girls require different types of vitamins, other than the fact that teenage boys have slightly higher daily requirements of all vitamins and minerals due to a higher average weight.

We recommend that teenage consumers be wary of 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 good science.

At the time of updating this article, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for vitamin C is 75 mg for boys between ages 14 and 18, and 60 mg for girls between 14 and 18, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Other Supplements for Teens

There are other supplement categories outside of vitamins which may be useful for teens on a case-by-case basis.

Whey protein is a safe food supplement that’s well-studied and can improve strength and lean body mass in combination with weightlifting.

Many teenagers in the US lift weights regularly, and 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.

Promix Whey Protein is our top whey protein powder because it's sourced from grass-fed cows and contains no unhealthy additive ingredients.

Melatonin is a dietary supplement used to support optimal sleep quality.

This compound is produced naturally by the body, but can also be taken in supplemental 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.

Pure Encapsulations Melatonin is our top melatonin supplement because it contains a low dose (0.5 mg) that's clinically shown to be effective, and which may reduce daytime drowsiness compared to higher doses.

Stay up-to-date on our research reviews

Conclusion

We don’t believe that vitamin supplementation is required or beneficial for all teenagers.

Most vitamins can be obtained from a healthy diet, and we haven't come across any convincing clinical evidence suggesting that teen boys and teen girls need different types of vitamins.

Vitamin D3 supplements can be useful for teens living at higher latitudes like New York City or Chicago, where it's impossible for the body to produce vitamin D from sun exposure during winter months.

Vitamin C is cheap and useful for supporting overall immunity. It's also clinically shown to reduce the duration of cold and flu, particularly in teens, so it may be beneficial to keep around the house incase a sickness develops.

There are other safe and research-backed dietary supplements like whey protein and melatonin that teens may want to consider on a case-by-case basis.