Updated: Jul 21, 2021
Children, “OUR FUTURE” forms one third of the population. Growth is the best global indicator of children’s well-being. During their early age they are vulnerable to poor nutrition. The growth rate during this period is greater than at any other time, thus there exists a risk of growth retardation. Also the immunological system is not fully mature at this age, resulting in a risk of frequent and severe infections. Understanding the nutrient needs of infants and toddlers is important for proper growth and development. Balanced and healthy diet strengthens child’s immune system, helps in maintaining healthy weight, and aids in brain and bone development. Well-nourished children are more likely to be healthy, productive and ready to learn.
Malnutrition: Causes and Consequences
Undernutrition is caused by the insufficient intake and/or inadequate absorption of energy, protein, vitamins and minerals that in turn lead to nutritional deficiencies. Childhood diseases, such as diarrhea or intestinal worm infestation, can affect the absorption of, or requirements, for nutrients. Malnutrition is a broad term that refers to all forms of poor nutrition. It includes both undernutrition and over nutrition. An estimated two thirds of deaths among children under five are attributed to undernutrition. Giving a child a solid nutritional start has an impact for life on her or his physical, mental and social development. Malnutrition weakens the immune system, making a child susceptible to disease, increasing severity of illness and impeding recovery. A sick child, in turn, can quickly become malnourished. Age-appropriate breastfeeding and nourishing complementary foods, along with adequate health care, can break this vicious cycle.
According to WHO and UNICEF, 60% of child deaths are malnutrition associated
Asia has largest no. of malnourished children
India accounts for 40% of malnourished children in the world
UNICEF estimates that malnutrition affects physical and mental function of 2 billion children.
India has 1.5 to 2 times stunting and wasting rates compared to global average.
1 in 3 of the world’s malnourished children lives in India
In India 7 out of 10 children in 2 to 10 year age group have below-median growth parameters- Abott’s Survey
61% of children in the 2-4 years age group observed to be Fussy Eaters.
45% of these children are nutritionally at-risk.
Since 2005, the prevalence of stunted children in India has fallen from 48% to 35% in children under-five. India is making progress but there is a need to continually improve the coverage, continuity, intensity.
Outcomes of Inadequate Nutrition
The Nutritional status of children is of paramount importance for optimal physical, mental and social development. If they do not get the proper nutrients they are at risk for:
poor muscle development
reduced work capacity
poor social development
high rates of illness
difficulty in school
Nutrient Requirements & RDA as per ICMR*
1. For Energy, Protein, Fat & Minerals
2. For Water Soluble & Fat Soluble Vitamins
Role of Macro and Micronutrients
Adequate nutrition is one of the important factor influencing growth & immunity. A balanced diet must contain sufficient amount of carbohydrate, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals and fiber in the required amounts. Each of these nutrients has a vital role in the all-round growth and development of children.
A gap in intake of macro and micro nutrients can put a child into the vicious cycle that takes its toll on growth.
Macros are essential nutrients of a balanced diet required for child's optimal growth and development. They provide energy, support immune system function, help build hormones and neurotransmitters, and aid the absorption of micronutrients. Macros are the cornerstone of child’s diet and can greatly impact how your child develops.
Carbohydrates, important macronutrient that is often a staple in children’s diets. Unfortunately, most kids are filling themselves up with refined, SIMPLE carbs like white bread, pasta, biscuits and crackers, and with not enough healthy food made of COMPLEX carbs. Complex carbohydrates provide essential nutrients for children’s growth and development. Carbs fuel child’s metabolism, they feed their brain and are vital for the development of the nervous, immune and digestive system. They're also a quick energy source.
Research shows that when kids eat more fiber, they eat less fat and sugar that’s because fiber-rich foods (those with at least 2.5 grams per serving) are low in calories and take a long time to digest which means kids stay full longer and don’t overeat. Other benefits of fiber include keeping blood sugar and insulin levels steady, which prevents the body from storing unnecessary fat.
When it comes to the growth and development of every single cell, the body needs protein. Protein, the building block nutrient is required to build cell and tissue structure, for muscle function, for hormone signaling, for the transport of blood, to build antibodies and for the digestion of food. Protein is also important for your child's energy levels and sleep quality.
iv. Healthy Fats
Fats are an essential component of healthy eating and required for child’s growth and energy. They’re used to build neural tissue for the nervous system, to make hormones and for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins.
Micronutrient deficiencies are often referred to as ‘hidden hunger’ because they develop gradually over time, their devastating impact not seen until irreversible damage has been done. Vitamins and minerals, are vital to healthy development, disease prevention, and wellbeing. With the exception of vitamin D, micronutrients are not produced in the body and must be derived from the diet. Only small amount of micronutrients are required but consuming the recommended amount is important. At least half of children worldwide younger than 5 years of age suffer from vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
Crucial Nutrients for Brain Development
90% of a child’s brain development happens before age 5. Many specific nutrients are needed to help the rapid growth and development of child’s brain.
Let’s explore six of the most important:
i. Omega 3 fatty acids
Omega 3 fatty acids are vital building blocks that child’s brain needs for development, growth, and cognition. It’s one of the absolute best nutrients for overall brain health, as it works to improve learning, memory, and mood in kids.
Kids’ brains need protein to function correctly. Protein contains essential amino acids that a child’s body requires for tissue repair and brain cell creation. It also works to boost moods, improve focus, and stabilize blood sugar levels. High-quality protein are part of healthy diet & are crucial to allow child’s brain to grow, develop, and learn.
Choline is an essential nutrient required for healthy brain development and normal brain function. It helps form new neurons and synapses in the brain to improve learning. It also plays an essential role in developing a child’s nervous systems and building cell membrane integrity. When combined with vitamin B12 and folate, choline also works to improve child’s focus and boost their memory.
Folate is necessary for the production of DNA and the creation of healthy cells. Adequate folate levels prevent brain and spinal cord defects and reduce a child’s risk of intellectual disability.
v. Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is essential for a child’s brain development, cognitive function, and the myelination of nerves. A lack of B12 during pregnancy and early childhood has been associated with impaired cognitive development, including attention and memory.
vi. Vitamin B6
Vitamin B6 helps release brain chemicals like serotonin and norepinephrine. They work to stabilize child’s mood and help them cope with stress. Vitamin B6 also helps maintain proper nervous system function and a robust immune system.
We at Zeon Lifesciences aim for “Good Health for All”
With 30+ years of experience in the industry, we are working meticulously to bring the knowledge of nature with innovation and advanced technology in the form of Unique Combinations to our consumers. We believe in fortifying our supplements to match the latest trends and technologies. One of our potential project includes Pediatric Nutrition Therapy, to provide right nutrition to kids in early days of life. Our specially designed supplements in the form of Powders, Chew tabs, Syrups, Drops, Diskettes provides adequate nutrition for the growth and development of children, strengthens child's immune system, helps them to maintain healthy weight, and aids in their brain and bone development.
National Family Health Survey (NFHS3) 2005-06, CNNS 2016-18
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 85, Issue 2, February 2007, Pages 614S–620S
American Academics of Pediatrics, Pediatric Nutrition Guidelines (Six Months to Six Years) for Health Professionals November 2016
*Indian Council of Medical Research
RDA=Recommended Dietary Allowances