THE CRUCIAL ROLE OF MICRONUTRIENTS FOR BABIES AND YOUNG CHILDREN 6-59 MONTHS
Proper nutrition is essential for the healthy growth and development of infants and young children. During the crucial period between 6 and 59 months of age, children undergo rapid physical, cognitive, and emotional development. To support this transformative phase, it is of utmost importance to ensure they receive an adequate supply of essential nutrients, including micronutrients. While macronutrients like carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are vital, the significance of micronutrients should not be overlooked. In this article, we will explore the importance of micronutrients for babies and children aged 6-59 months and understand the critical role they play in their overall well-being.
WHAT ARE MICRONUTRIENTS?
Micronutrients are essential vitamins and minerals required in small amounts by the human body for optimal functioning. They include vitamins such as vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K, vitamin C, B-complex vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, folic acid), and minerals like iron, zinc, calcium, iodine, magnesium, and selenium. These micronutrients perform a wide range of functions within the body and are crucial for various physiological processes.
IMPORTANCE OF MICRONUTRIENTS FOR BABIES AND YOUNG CHILDREN
Growth and Development: Micronutrients play a vital role in supporting proper growth and development during early childhood. They contribute to bone formation, brain development, immune system function, and the development of organs and tissues.
Cognitive Development: Several micronutrients, such as iron, zinc, iodine, and B vitamins, are essential for optimal brain development and cognitive function. Inadequate intake of these nutrients during early childhood may lead to developmental delays, learning difficulties, and poor academic performance later in life.
Immune System Function: Micronutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, and selenium are crucial for a robust immune system. They help protect infants and young children from infections and diseases, ensuring a healthier and stronger immune response.
Eye Health: Vitamin A is particularly important for maintaining good vision and eye health. Deficiencies in vitamin A can lead to night blindness and an increased risk of infections, such as measles and diarrhoea, which can have severe consequences for young children.
Nutrient Absorption: Micronutrients are involved in the absorption and utilization of other nutrients in the body. For instance, iron is necessary for the proper absorption of dietary iron, while vitamin C enhances the absorption of non-heme iron found in plant-based foods.
PREVENTION OF MICRONUTRIENT DEFICIENCY
Micronutrient deficiencies, also known as hidden hunger, can have detrimental effects on a child's health and development. Iron deficiency anemia, vitamin A deficiency, and iodine deficiency disorders are prevalent in many parts of the world, and young children are particularly vulnerable. Providing an adequate supply of micronutrients can help prevent these deficiencies and their associated health complications.
PROMOTING MICRONUTRIENT INTAKE
To ensure babies aged 6-59 months receive adequate micronutrients, it is important to focus on a balanced and diverse diet. Here are some essential tips for promoting healthy micronutrient intake:
Breastfeeding: Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life provides an excellent source of essential nutrients, including micronutrients. Breast milk adapts to the changing needs of the growing baby and contains a balanced mix of vitamins and minerals.
Introduction of Complementary Foods: After six months, when breast milk alone is no longer sufficient, introducing nutrient-rich complementary foods is crucial. These foods should be diverse, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, lean meats, and dairy products, to provide a wide array of micronutrients.
Fortified Foods: Fortified foods, such as iron-fortified cereals or iodized salt, can be beneficial in areas where nutrient deficiencies are prevalent. These fortified products can provide an additional source of key micronutrients.
PICKY EATERS AT RISK
Children who are picky eaters are more prone to experiencing micronutrient deficiencies due to their limited food choices. Picky eaters often exhibit a strong aversion to certain food textures, flavours, or colours, resulting in a restricted diet that lacks essential nutrients. This can lead to a deficiency in vital micronutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and trace elements, which are crucial for their growth and development. To address this issue, incorporating a powdered tasteless and colourless supplement becomes necessary. This type of supplement can be easily mixed into various foods or beverages without altering their taste or appearance, making it more likely for picky eaters to accept and consume it.
In some cases, when a balanced diet is not feasible or a child is at risk of deficiencies, healthcare professionals may recommend nutritional supplements. Micronutrient supplements, such as FUTURELIFE® Vita-Mix, can be beneficial for babies and young children in various situations to meet their micronutrient needs and address potential gaps. Vulnerable children, including picky eaters, babies born premature or with low birth weight, children attending crèches, sickly children, and toddlers transitioning off milk feeds, often have specific nutritional requirements that may not be fully met through their regular diet. Micronutrient supplements can help bridge these gaps and provide essential vitamins and minerals for their optimal growth and development. FUTURELIFE® Vita-Mix is an ideal choice as it meets 100% of the Recommended Nutrient Intakes (RNIs) for 6 – 59 months for 10 vitamins and 5 minerals and is versatile enough to be mixed into milk or solid foods without altering the flavour or colour ensuring that your child receives the necessary nutrients without any resistance.
Micronutrients are vital for the healthy growth, development, and overall well-being of babies aged 6-59 months. Adequate intake of essential vitamins and minerals is crucial for their cognitive development, immune system function, and prevention of nutrient deficiencies. By promoting a diverse and balanced diet, including breastfeeding and introducing appropriate complementary foods, or using a supplement like FUTURELIFE® Vita-Mix, parents and caregivers can ensure that infants and young children receive the necessary micronutrients to support their optimal growth and development.
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- Taylor CM, Et al. Macro-and micronutrient intakes in picky eaters : a cause for concern? Am J Clin Nutr. 2016104(6):1647-1656
BY: Katherine Megaw / DATE: June 2023