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TalkingNutrition

Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals

March4Nutrition: Keeping Children Alive all 365 Days of the Year

By Michael McBurney

Today is the last day of Nutrition Month characterized by #March4Nutrition in twitter. We should never overlook the power of nutrition in the first 1000 days of life. When babies are in the womb, they obtain all their nutrients from their mother. If mothers are not consuming enough iron, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), lutein, zeaxanthin, or zinc, the child will be playing catch-up before birth and while breast feeding.

Breastfeeding has advantages for both the mother and child. However, as the child grows, complementary foods need to be introduced if the nutrition of a child is to be better  than that provided by breastmilk. Complementary foods need to be fortified with micronutrients that are naturally scarce. The provision of micronutrient-fortified drinks reduces the prevalence of iron deficiency, iron anemia, and vitamin C and B12 deficiency in school children. Adding fortified ready-to-use supplementary foods to a typical household diet improves nutrition and affects mortality of children. Nutrient dense foods make a difference.

 As Thousand Days infographic advocates, children getting the right nutrition during the first 1000 days are 10x more likely to overcome a life-threatening disease, likely to complete 4.6x more grades of school, and will probably earn 21% more in wages as an adult. These are huge differences. Differences that last for a lifetime.

Vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and other essential micronutrients protect against disease, promote healthy growth, and support cognitive development.  Nutrition: essential for life.

Citations

Huybregts L, Houngbe F, Salpeteur C, Brown R, Roberfroid D, Ait-Aissa M, Kolsteren P. The effect of adding ready-to-use supplementary food to a general food distribution on child nutritional status and morbidity: A cluster-randomized controlled trial. 2012 PLoS Med doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001313

Vossenaar M, Hernandez L, Campos R, Solomons NW. Several ‘problem nutrients’ are identified in complementary feeding of Guatamalan infants with continued breastfeeding using the concept of ‘critical nutrient density’. 2012 EJCN doi: 10.1036/ejcn.2012.170

Thankachan P, Selvam S, Surendran D, Chellan S, Pauline M, Abrams SA, Kurpad AV. Efficacy of a multi micronutrient-fortified drink in improving iron and micronutrient status among schoolchildren with low iron stores in India: a randomized, double-masked placebo-controlled trial.  2013 Eur J Clin Nutr doi:10.1038/ejcn.2012.188


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