What Are Vitamin Needs for Teenage Girls and Guys?
“Look, I found some gummy vitamins in the back of the pantry!” announced my mom excitedly.
“Okay… You’re sure they’re still good?”
“Of course! Vitamins don’t go bad.” (Spoiler alert: they do, sort of. While they don’t produce toxins, they lose their potency and effectiveness if taken after they expire.)
I stared down into the bottle. Even if they were safe to take, they looked odd. They were dyed strangely dark, dull colors. I pulled out an olive green one and chewed it. It didn’t taste as bad as it looked.
That’s when it hit me. I looked at the bottle again: “Daily Gummy Vitamins For Him.”
“Mom, these are boys’ vitamins.” I am a girl.
Another case of pointless gendering of products? Actually, no, although dying them dark colors for the sake of “masculinity” was pretty pointless. For the record, the girls’ version of the same product is a pretty assortment of bright pinks, oranges, and yellows.
In this case, though, the gendering of the vitamins not only makes sense, but it’s fairly important. Unsurprisingly, your biological sex has a significant effect on your vitamin needs, especially in your teenage years as you’re still maturing. Some mineral needs are constant between boys and girls, like calcium and potassium, and girls actually need less of certain vitamins, like vitamins A, C, B-6, thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin — although this disparity is based on the assumption of relatively smaller body mass. Of course, all these values are going to depend on your height, weight, and several other factors and are therefore very individual to your body. Sound confusing? It is, but the US Department of Agriculture actually offers a free Dietary Reference Intake calculator that gives you personalized values of your daily vitamin, mineral, and macronutrient needs.
One particularly important mineral needed by biological females is iron. On average, females need 15mg a day while males need 11mg. The reason for this disparity is almost purely based on blood loss from menstruation, but some experts suggest it might have something to do with typical dietary differences between men and women.
After a bit more research on the aforementioned gummy vitamins, by the way, I found out that the only difference between the girls’ and guys’ versions was quantity of vitamins — and that the girls’ version actually didn’t offer an increased quantity of iron or any of the other vitamins and minerals that females tend to be lacking in. Essentially, do your research to find a daily multivitamin that meets your daily needs — as determined by your doctor and approximations like the Dietary Reference Intake calculator — and make an effort to stay healthy by eating foods high in important vitamins.
Ultimately, however, your health is a very individual thing, determined by a number of lifestyle and dietary factors as well as biological sex. Sometimes, blood tests are necessary to determine whether you’re meeting your vitamin and mineral needs. For example, it took blood labs for me to find out that I was severely deficient in vitamin D and that I needed a supplement. Take care of yourself as best as you can, of course, but sometimes self-care means medical help if necessary.