Children’s nutrition critical for growth

Sunday, September 20th, 2020 00:00 |
A child smiles as she takes her food. Photo/COURTESY

Christine Nderitu

Young children include toddlers and preschool children up to five years old, experience rapid cognitive, social-emotional and physical development. 

These developmental changes are accompanied by changing nutrition needs to support the most important stage of development throughout life.

One of the most critical health effects today is overweight and obesity, and children with these conditions are more likely to experience immediate health effects such as increased risk of fractures, breathing difficulties, high blood pressure, insulin resistance.

They are also prone to psychological and social problems, such as low self-esteem, difficulty making friends and even a higher likelihood of being bullied and experience difficulty in learning and have lower levels of school attendance.

As adults, they are more likely to have obesity, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders and some cancers.

These diseases can affect their psychological wellbeing and economic productivity.

Deficiencies in this age can also cause lifelong effects, iron deficiency for instance, which is common in children around the world, affects cognitive development.

Affected children have been shown to perform poorly at school. Other important nutrients include magnesium, vitamin D and calcium which are critical for bone development.

When taken insufficiently, individuals can suffer bone problems later in life.

Child growth is used as a measure of the health and nutrition status, measured in height and weight. 

Height almost doubles between birth and the age of three years, and on average increases by 6.5cm every year up to five years.

Similarly, toddlers’ body weight increases four times by the age of three, and continues to increase by an average of 5.5gram per day till puberty. Assessing growth is thus critical in your child’s regular clinic. 

Also important to note is that toddlers’ fat mass decreases by almost 40 per cent between one and five years.

So in cases where babies are overweight from exclusive breastfeeding, they naturally lose weight with appropriate complementary feeding and weaning, with nutrient-rich foods and active feeding.

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