Nutritional deficiencies in childhood

7th October 2020

Diet is crucial during childhood as it needs to cover not only daily nutritional needs but also those nutrients required by the growth and development process. Children most commonly lack certain nutrients, such as iron, iodine, vitamin D and DHA.

DHA: an omega-3, polyunsaturated fatty acid that is an essential constituent of Central Nervous System cells. It is essential for growth and development.

The human brain has a high fatty acid content, of which DHA is the main component.

Numerous nutritional experts recommend feeding babies fish one to three times a week as a source of DHA, avoiding larger-sized species.

Iron: an essential trace element used in various metabolic processes, including transporting the oxygen we breathe to all our body's cells. A long-term iron deficiency or a lack of significant amounts can cause anaemia, impairing a child's psychomotor and cognitive development, and even weakening his natural defences.

Eating meat, fish or pulses every day will prevent this. Pulses should be combined with fruits rich in vitamin C to help absorption of the iron they contain.

Iodine: needed for a normally functioning thyroid gland. Iodine deficiency can cause goitre and delayed mental development.

This mineral is found in seafood, such as fish, shellfish and seaweed. Therefore, it is good to get children used to eating fish from the time they are young, starting with white fish and then introducing oily fish from the age of 18 months. The use of iodised cooking salt is also an important source of this mineral.

Vitamin D: it can be provided by dietary means and is also made in our bodies when exposed to sunlight. It is very important for strong teeth and bones, as it promotes calcium absorption and bone mineralisation. Vitamin D deficiency can cause rickets.

It is found in oily fish, egg yolks, butter and whole milk. Young children should eat between one and two eggs a week. In some cases, such as where young children have reduced exposure to the sun, particularly in winter when we are well covered up when we go outside, some paediatricians recommend vitamin D supplements.

To prevent deficiencies in these nutrients, and to help balance the diets of young children, you can use a complete, balanced dietary supplement such as Vitafos junior.

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