Anorexia in different ages of children


Anorexia is a common problem in children, causing a lot of worry for parents. This condition not only affects a child’s physical development but can also impact their psychology and overall health. Anorexia can occur at any age, but is most common in children between 1 and 6 years old.

1. What is called anorexia?

As stated in the article Anorexia in children – Causes and Solutions( posted on May 12, 2023, currently, there is still no unified definition of “anorexia” worldwide, as well as standards to evaluate what anorexia is. In Vietnam, anorexia is defined by the Vietnamese Ministry of Health as when a child does not eat enough food according to nutritional needs, leading to slow growth. This definition is similar to a term for an internationally recognized eating disorder called Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID).

Anorexia as commonly understood in Vietnam is often confused with the term “anorexia nervosa” which is anorexia due to pressure on appearance and weight in both adults and children, leading to common consequences of loss of appetite and essential nutritional deficiencies. Anorexia in children is a painful problem in Vietnamese society today, directly affecting both the physical and mental development of children. According to statistics from the National Institute of Nutrition, the rate of anorexia in Vietnam ranges from 45.9% to 57.7%. In another study by the National Institute of Nutrition Research, the rate of anorexic children under 5 years old in Vietnam was 45.9%, higher than the average rate of Southeast Asian countries (30.2%. %) and the world (22.9%). These are alarming numbers given the widespread prevalence of anorexia today.

Anorexia is a common problem in children

Anorexia not only affects growth in height and weight, but also causes many other serious consequences such as weakened immune system, making children susceptible to infectious diseases, digestive disorders, delayed intellectual development and can lead to psychological disorders, affecting children’s behavior.

2. Signs of children anorexia in different age groups

According to many studies by the National Institute of Nutrition have compiled and shown that the rate of anorexia in Vietnam ranges from 30-50% with specific rates varying by age as follows.:

  • Children under 6 months old: about 30% of children have anorexia
  • Children from 6 months to 1 year old: About 35% of children have anorexia.
  • Children from 1 to 3 years old: About 45% of children have anorexia
  • Children over 3 years old: About 50% of children have anorexia

In the first months of life, breast milk is an excellent and only source of nutrition for children. However, anorexia is still a common phenomenon in this period of 0-6 months of age. This condition can be due to many different reasons, and all affect the child’s development. The first is due to ineffective breastfeeding from incorrect breastfeeding or bottle feeding techniques leading to insufficient milk intake. In addition, some children are innately allergic to milk proteins and milk components, causing symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting, making the child uncomfortable. From the above reasons, children will drink less than the usual amount of milk or breastfeed intermittently, or cry while breastfeeding and eventually lose weight, this is the most obvious sign of anorexia. If the child does not gain weight or even loses weight over a period of time, parents need to take the child to see a doctor for appropriate instructions.

Breast milk is an excellent and only source of nutrition for infants

The period when children are 1-2 years old is the time for teething process to be completed, causing the baby’s gums to become irritated and swollen, causing pain and discomfort, causing the child to stop eating. At the same time, this is also the period when children are susceptible to infectious and respiratory diseases, so anorexia is very likely to occur. Children will eat very little and only certain foods, refusing to try new foods, accompanied by signs of crying, sucking or spitting food when eating. This is a difficult problem and headache for many parents. Sometimes it also brings about the thinking of “let them eat as much as he/she can”, causing children to lose more and more sense of food, leading to the problem of anorexia becoming more and more serious.

Anorexia in children 1-2 years old worries parents

Similar to the two stages above, anorexia in children between the ages of 3 and 5 also causes a lot of worry for parents. During this period, children have big changes when they start school, get used to the learning environment, parents are not around as much as before, causing psychological problems for children, leading to anorexia. Or changing diets and diets at home and at school also makes children bored, cry, frustrated when it’s time to eat or they may find ways to avoid meals.

A lot of parents feel secure that after the age of 6, they will no longer have to face anorexia in their children. However, the reality is completely different. During this period, for many reasons, children eat less than their body’s nutritional needs. Children aged 6-10 years old begin to study more and may experience pressure from studying and exams, leading to stress, anxiety and anorexia. Not only that, irregular eating, eating a lot of sweets, fried foods or snacks after school makes children no longer have the appetite for main meals. From then on, children skipping meals and anorexia are inevitable. 

Regular snacking of children can lead to anorexia

3. When is the right time for children with anorexia to be intervened and overcome it properly

In the above section, the article has given specific causes of anorexia at each age, so to intervene and overcome it properly and effectively, specific measures are needed for each age. This will be presented in this section to bring parents full knowledge to take the best care of their children.

Some typical physical characteristics of 1-2 year old children are an immature digestive system, unfamiliarity with food, lack of micronutrients or susceptibility to infections. Therefore, parents need to feed their children according to their needs, avoid forcing them to eat, massage their gums during teething, and actively supplement micronutrients for children (vitamin D, DHA, Calcium, Iron, zinc,…). At the same time, avoiding bottle feeding before meals is a very effective measure for children at this stage.

Food supplemented with micronutrients for healthy development of children

Next, at the age of 3-5 years old, children are passionate about exploring the world around them, more interested in playing than eating, so they accidentally skip meals or go past meal time. Therefore, parents need to proactively create habits of eating on time and scientifically while limiting children from watching TV or playing on the phone that cause distractions during meals, bringing children into the framework of eating for themselves, that creates the foundation for children’s diet in the future.

Feed children on time for better health  

At the age of 6-10 years old, children have a sense of self, like to be independent and have a school mentality. Therefore, parents need to proactively ask and listen to their children’s opinions when choosing food, praise them for eating well and studying well, avoid comparing with others to create a positive and healthy environment.

Praise and listen to create a comfortable state of mind for children during each meal 

In addition, from this article, mothers can apply some tips to cure anorexia in children such as: decorating beautiful dishes, letting children participate in cooking or telling stories during meals or other ancient folk tricks.

Food cutting molds with funny shapes, together with arranging food into animal or flower shapes, and using brightly colored fruits and vegetables to decorate enables children’s curiosity, making meals more attractive and enjoyable.

Funny dishes decoration helps your baby enjoy meal and eat more

Experiences with mothers washing vegetables, washing rice or decorating dishes, telling fun and attractive stories related to food, praising the baby when completing tasks to create an atmosphere of joy and comfort, is also an effective method that mothers apply with children aged 3 – 5.

At the same time, folk tips such as giving your baby sugarcane juice before meals to stimulate the digestive system, massaging the baby’s belly after a meal helps the baby digest food better, sour dishes stimulating children’s taste and using herbs (fish mint, spinach) to cook water for babies to drink are also used by mothers to help children overcome anorexia.

In addition, parents also need to consult appropriate and effective nutritional solutions for each child’s age, helping children eat well and develop comprehensively physically and mentally. Understanding the specific nutritional needs of each age in children with anorexia and accompanying Vietnamese families on the journey to cure anorexia for their children, Nutricare Medical Nutrition Institute – USA (NMNI-USA) and Nutricare have researched launched Hanie Kid, a specialized nutritional product for anorexic and malnourished children.

This product has been clinically proven to help babies gain weight after 1 month. In particular, the product possesses Pedia formula and 100 kcal high energy as recommended by the World Health Organization and is rich in protein and HMO fiber that is good for digestion and is clinically proven to help babies gain weight after 1 month. In particular, the 100 kcal high-energy formula, also known as F-100, is a treatment product for malnutrition in young children recommended for use by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Ministry of Health. F-100 means that 100ml of the preparation provides up to 100 kcal. The F-100 product was researched by scientists and included in the standard treatment regimen for malnourished children. At the same time, a number of other micronutrient supplement products can be used to allow improvement of the child’s growth rate and stature.

Not only that, Hanie Kid products also contain a set of 3 calcium, Vitamin K2 and D3 and 24-hour colostrum imported from the US, helping children increase their height significantly and support the improvement of their immune system. Thanks to that, the product is recommended by nutrition experts and trusted by many parents with anorexic and malnourished children in Vietnam.

Anorexia in children is a painful problem in current society, directly affecting the child’s physical and mental development. However, as shown in the article, this is only a temporary phase and completely solvable. Parents need to have patience, understanding and apply appropriate measures to help children eat well and grow healthily. And especially, always give your children love and care so they can feel safe and comfortable at every meal.







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