Is it feasible to get schoolchildren to adhere to taking vitamin D supplements? What kind of beliefs and attitudes toward vitamin D might lead to better adherence?
New research published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics looked at these very questions.
Researchers enrolled children from schools in Boston aged 9 to 15 years old. The children were given a bottle of 100 vitamin D pills, either containing 600, 1,000 or 2,000 IU per pill depending on their age. The children were instructed to take one pill per day and to bring back the supplement bottle with the remaining pills after three months. The researchers used the remaining pills to gauge adherence to taking vitamin D.
After three months, the children and their parents took separate questionnaires on their beliefs on vitamin D. The researchers wanted to see how compliant the children were in taking vitamin D, and they also wanted to see if their or their parents’ beliefs on vitamin D correlated at all with their compliance.
As to general beliefs on vitamin D, here is what they found:
- 58% of parents believed vitamin D was important for bone and heart health, while only 35% of children believed that.
- A relatively low percentage of parents and children (39% and 36%, respectively) believed vitamin D was important for non-condition-specific reasons, like strength and energy.
- Children whose mothers had post-secondary education were 1.8 times more likely to believe that vitamin D was important for condition-specific health. There was no similar correlation for strength and energy.
As to the relationship between beliefs and adherence to taking vitamin D, here is what they found:
- General adherence to taking vitamin D was good. This means that in the school setting, if children are instructed to take vitamin D, they likely will.
- If the child’s parents took vitamin D, they were more likely to adhere to taking vitamin D daily.
- If the parents believed that vitamin D was important for strength and energy, children were less likely to take vitamin D. The belief that vitamin D is important for strength and energy probably reflects a general lack of knowledge of vitamin D, because of the somewhat vagueness of the term “strength and energy.” Although I’m speculating, the general lack of knowledge of vitamin D could lead to decreased belief that it’s important to take, thus leading to lower adherence.
- Also, as you might guess, the more involved the parent was in making sure their child took their daily vitamin D supplement, the better the adherence was in general.
The researchers concluded,
“Adherence to daily vitamin D supplement use in this school based randomized trial was high. It was higher when parents reported taking a vitamin D containing supplement and when responsibility for administering the vitamin was shared between both parents and children.”
Furthermore, they recommend,
“Promoting child supplement use through parent involvement and role modeling may be a practical solution for registered dietitians and other health professionals who are aiming to improve vitamin D adherence in youth.”
The interesting finding here is the higher compliance if the children or parents believed vitamin D was important for specific things, like bone and heart health, compared to vaguer reasons, like strength and energy. Although vitamin D is important for all four reasons, this study highlights that it is likely a better strategy to educate on how vitamin D is important for specific conditions, as opposed to generic reasons. Why? It leads to better adherence to taking vitamin D.