The importance of Micronutrients for the growth and development of children

03/01/2024

Nutritional care for young children is a fundamental factor to ensure comprehensive development and growth in children. Children’s nutrition follows the same basic principles as adult nutrition: eating a variety of foods that provide nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, proteins and fats. However, children also need specific nutrients for their different stages of development, depending on their age and body requirements.

What is good nutrition for each age and stage of development of children?

The needs for different micronutrients, minerals, and vitamins at different ages (children, young children, adolescents, adults, and middle-aged people) are shown and clearly specified in Appendix No. 01 Table of recommended nutritional needs. Recommendation for Vietnamese people (issued together with Circular No. 43/2014/TT-BYT dated November 24, 2014 of the Minister of Health).

Proper nutrition affects children’s development both physically and mentally at each age and stage. A child’s diet at each age is crucial for the holistic growth of a healthy body and a happy spirit. Otherwise, if the child does not get enough or gets too much nutrients, it can cause problems for their development, such as obesity, malnutrition or poisoning. These issues will be discussed in more detail later in this article.

Nutrition at each stage of child development changes differently

– Breast milk is the ideal food for infants and young children in the first 6 months of life. The World Health Organization (WHO) advises that breast milk is the only food that newborns need during this period. It provides all the necessary nutrients such as protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, as well as trace elements that support healthy growth and immunity. 

However, during this period there are also changes in feeding time and the time between feedings in children, which is affected by the development of the child’s digestive system and growth rate over each month. By 6 months, the child may weigh twice as much as at birth. This is a critical period for the child’s physical and cognitive development that prepares them for future stages.

– Children 6-12 months old: the child’s digestive system is relatively complete, which can help the baby digest foods other than milk. Therefore, between 6-8 months, in addition to milk, you can start giving your baby liquid foods. Children should not be fed solid foods, it can cause the baby to suffocate because the body has not adapted yet. After 12 months, a child’s weight increases 3 times and is 1.5 times taller than a newborn, meaning a 1-year-old child can be 75cm tall. From 8-12 months of age, babies should continue to breastfeed or replace milk 3-4 times a day. At this age, it is necessary to add stewed meat and minced meat to the child’s diet.

Eating a balanced diet early on can help children develop a positive attitude towards food, building a solid foundation for healthy eating.

– Children from 1-3 years old are the age when they discover independence and control. Many skills and brain reflexes will be formed during this period, so you need to pay attention to supplementing micronutrients such as zinc, iron, calcium. ,… These micronutrients are decisive in the formation and structure of the brain, and are extremely important in the intellectual development of children.

The early childhood years, from 6 months to 3 years old, are crucial for child development. Experts say that during this time, children not only grow physically but also start to learn about the world and develop psychologically. However, children’s immune systems are still developing and they may face health issues, especially with digestion and immunity. Giving children enough nutrients in this period can help them build resistance, immunity and brain development for later stages. A strong immunity and a well-rounded development will ensure a healthy and stable future for your child.

– Preschoolers (3-5 years old) are in a critical stage of developing lifelong healthy eating habits. They may experience rapid growth, high activity levels and established food preferences. Their appetite may vary depending on these factors, so mothers should adjust the food quantity and quality according to their children’s needs and likes. Providing regular meals and snacks can help children maintain their energy throughout the day.

Some children’s diseases are related to nutrition

– Obesity and overweight are prevalent and increasing health problems among children in Vietnam. The Institute of Social and Medical Research reports that more than 300,000 children under 5 years old are affected by these conditions. In Ho Chi Minh City, the situation is especially serious, as the child obesity rate surpasses the global average. The National Institute of Nutrition’s 2019 – 2020 National Nutrition Census shows that the percentage of overweight and obese children rose from 8.5% in 2010 to 19.0% in 2020, a 2.2-fold increase. It is worth nothing that in fact, up to 60-80% of children’s obesity cases are due to nutritional causes with a diet rich in fat (fast food, fried foods,…), carbohydrates (tea, ice cream, etc.). cakes, soft drinks, etc.) exceeding the necessary needs for the body’s development. The extra energy is stored as fat in various parts of the body, such as the internal organs, abdomen, face and arms,.. 

Obesity children can also encounter the same problems as adults, such as weakening the immune system, increasing the risk of bone and joint diseases, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, etc., causing children’s bodies to lack flexibility. active. Besides, obese children are easily teased, causing them psychological harm, low self-esteem, and loneliness, and affecting their learning ability. Many children tend to suffer from low self-esteem, dissatisfaction with their body shape, and depression, causing them to leave deep psychological marks until adulthood.

– Malnutrition is a nutritional deficiency, including: energy, protein, lipids and micronutrients, commonly found in children under 5 years old.

According to Unicef’s State of the World’s Children Report, 1 in 3 children under 5 years old will suffer from malnutrition. In Vietnam, the rate of malnutrition in children under 5 years old ranges from 19.6% to less than 20%, of which more than 230,000 children under 5 years old suffer from severe acute malnutrition each year.

Malnutrition in children is a serious health and development issue that parents should be aware of. It can lead to various complications, such as: increased risk of respiratory and intestinal infections due to a compromised immune system. A weakened immune system makes the body vulnerable to external pathogens. It can also impair the growth of the bones and the brain, resulting in stunted height or reduced cognitive abilities compared to their peers.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the standard height for newborns is 50cm and in the first 3 months, children can increase about 3cm/month and continue to increase 2cm in the following months. Therefore, if you see that a child only meets 90% of the standard, there is a high possibility that the child is stunted. Likewise, if a child’s weight is 90% or less of the WHO standard weight for their age and sex, they may be underweight, which can increase their risk of infections and diseases. Therefore, it is important to monitor the child’s growth chart every month, as well as to provide adequate nutrition and care for the child. This can help prevent and detect malnutrition early and intervene promptly for the child’s well-being.

– Young children have immature digestive systems, which makes them prone to food poisoning. Food poisoning can be identified by the symptoms that appear after consuming contaminated food or drinks, sometimes hours or days later. Children under 5 years old often suffer from very severe symptoms of food poisoning.

Some common sources of food poisoning in children are foods of animal origin such as meat, seafood, milk and dairy products or green vegetables and fruits contaminated by microbial agents. These include: Salmonella, E.coli, Listeria, Staphylococus aureus… or hepatitis A virus, Norovirus, etc. E.coli or Listeria poisoning can lead to complications related to the heart, kidneys and serious bleeding.

Food poisoning is a serious health risk that can be fatal or cause long-term damage. Some of the common signs of acute food poisoning are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, and breathing problems. If not treated promptly, acute food poisoning can result in death. Chronic food poisoning affects the organs and systems of the body over time. It can impair the function of the liver, kidneys, digestive tract, and immune system, especially in young children. 

Conclusion

This article aims to educate young parents on the nutrition issues that affect children and the healthy diet that can support their holistic development. By knowing the nutritional needs of children according to their age, parents can create a suitable nutritional plan for their children to help them optimize their physical and mental growth.

References:

1.https://thuvienphapluat.vn/van-ban/The-thao-Y-te/Thong-tu-43-2014-TT-BYT-quan-ly-thuc-pham-chuc-nang-258938.aspx

2.https://grandnutrition.vn/che-do-dinh-duong-cho-tre-em-theo-tung-do-tuoi-va-goi-y-thuc-don.html

3. https://tamanhhospital.vn/beo-phi-o-tre-em/

4. https://anuongkhoemanh.com/benh-suy-dinh-duong-o-tre-em/

5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “WHO growth standards are recommended for use in the US for infants and children 0 to 2 years of age.” (2010).

6.https://www.vectorstock.com/royalty-free-vector/food-poisoning-symptoms-child-infographic-poster-vector-13653778

7. https://vitadairy.vn/thuc-pham-giup-phat-trien-tri-nao-cho-tre-v11t107.html

8. https://tamanhhospital.vn/beo-phi-o-tre-em/

9. https://anuongkhoemanh.com/benh-suy-dinh-duong-o-tre-em/

10.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “WHO growth standards are recommended for use in the US for infants and children 0 to 2 years of age.” (2010).

11.https://www.vinmec.com/vi/tin-tuc/thong-tin-suc-khoe/dinh-duong/tim-hieu-thap-dinh-duong-cho-tre-em-3-5-tuoi/

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