Micronutrients play a critical role in complete, balanced nutrition for toddlers

 Micronutrients play a critical role in complete, balanced nutrition for toddlers

Kolkata: Paediatric nutritional gaps remain far too common and occur when children don’t get adequate nutrients for growth and development. Nearly 150 million children under five years are stunted, and 50 million have low weight for height.[i]

“According to the Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey report (2016–2018), 35% of Indian children aged 0–4 years were stunted, 17% were wasted and 33% were underweight. Without proper nutrition, growth faltering or even stunted growth can occur, leading to illness and cognitive development issues which can have consequences later in life for children. Addressing nutritional gaps in those at risk early can help them reach their full growth potential” said Dr. Irfan Sheikh, Head Pediatric Nutrition, Scientific & Medical Affairs for Abbott’s nutrition business in India.

The height a child ultimately achieves in adulthood is a summary of processes carried out at the growth plate of long bones. Genetic factors such as parental height is an important determinant of a child’s height, but environmental factors, such as nutrition, especially in early childhood, can also affect bone growth.

It is widely known that vitamin D and calcium contribute to building strong, healthy bones in kids, fiber is important for supporting a healthy digestive system, and protein plays an essential role in many bodily functions.

But, lesser-known nutrients like arginine and vitamin K2 are necessary as well. Vitamin K2 is a fat-soluble vitamin critical for mineralization to support strong bones as it activates a transporter to bind and deliver calcium to the bones. Arginine is an amino acid which helps stimulate the growth plate through growth hormone release and plays a role in linear growth.

Intake of arginine and vitamin K2 is important for healthy growth and development, so maintaining a diet for children that is rich in both is key. Dietary sources of arginine can be found in both plant and animal sources such as seeds, grains, legumes, meat, seafood, eggs, and dairy products. Vitamin K2 is found in animal products and fermented foods like yogurt and ginger carrots.

Dr. Robert Murray, Professor of Pediatrics, Pediatric GI & Nutrition, The Ohio State University states, “To ensure children eat right, parents and caregivers must incorporate anchor foods in their diet. If a child eats one of each of these foods, then a parent can be reassured that they are getting adequate nutrition. A growing child’s wholesome diet should ideally include all the five food groups – dairy for calcium, fruits for vitamins, cereals for carbohydrates, meats and nuts for proteins, and vegetables for minerals.”

Parents and caregivers should continually assess their child’s growth and speak with a healthcare professional if they believe their child is falling behind. If nutrition intervention is needed, parents can help by making nutritious foods more available to their child. For children who have trouble getting the right nutrition through food alone, nutritional supplements can help.

Complete, balanced nutrition is essential for growth, cognitive development, and immune function. The solution can be simple – finding ways to incorporate good nutrition in children’s diets can go a long way.

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