HK families use too many vitamins, experts say

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 October, 2011, 12:00am


The use of vitamins in Hong Kong may not have reached the alarming levels described in an American health study - which says they are increasing the risk of death in elderly women - but their use is still excessive, especially as the pills are of little real value, local health experts say.

William Chui Chun-ming, vice-president of the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Hong Kong, said he would not describe the use of such pills in the city as abusive, but consumers were spending too much money on them to achieve effects that could be gained through balanced diets and regular workouts.

Gordon Cheung Chi-leung, president of the Hong Kong Nutrition Association, agreed that parents were giving children too many supplements such as calcium and fish oil.

They were commenting after a study published on Monday in the US said there was no need for most people to take vitamins and some might even be linked to a higher risk of death in older women.

A Hong Kong study has also shown that more than half of local parents are giving their children supplements in the mistaken belief they are necessary for development.

Chui said an overdose of vitamins and calcium could affect kidney functions, damage liver cells, or even cause kidney stones. 'Hong Kong people are well-nourished, so the healthy ones basically don't need any extra health supplements,' he said.

The study published in the Hong Kong Medical Journal showed the city's children, especially those from well-off families, regularly took supplements. Overall about 52 per cent of the 730 parents interviewed regularly gave supplements to their children of kindergarten age, while a third of them did not know of potential side-effects of overconsumption.

The article said parents who gave their children vitamins usually believed they were important for normal development, immune function and intellectual development.

Cheung said he knew of a child who had damaged liver functions due to overconsumption of cod fish oil. He advised parents to consult doctors or dietitians before feeding health supplements to their children.

Vitamin C and calcium can be acquired by eating fruits and vegetables, while regular outdoor exercise helps increase bone density and calcium levels.