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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


Food Security, Micronutrients and Raising Children: A Global Quandary

By Michael McBurney

The landing page for Scaling Up Nutrition states “When children are properly nourished they can grow up to be healthy and productive.” Proper nourishment refers to the need for adequate amounts of energy (carbohydrates, fats, and proteins) and essential nutrients (vitamins and minerals).  We know this to be true.

Malnutrition can be acute or chronic. Acute malnutrition (starvation) leads to death and often follows earthquakes or other emergencies. Chronic malnutrition causes stunting. The question is: how to prevent malnutrition?

Langendorf and colleagues compared effectiveness of several nutritional and household strategies to prevent acute malnutrition among children living in Niger. They found that combining cash transfers to increase household purchasing power in conjunction with nutritious supplementary foods was the most effective means to prevent acute malnutrition and mortality in children 6-23 months.

For parts of the world, malnutrition co-exists with childhood obesity. As children mature, their nutritional habits are affected by parental feeding practices. Data from European children finds that parents adapt their eating style when children become overweight. This is an attempt to manipulate energy intake of children in food-rich environments but efforts to limit the consumption of certain foods may further restrict intake of essential nutrients. Even in countries where many children are overweight or obese, vitamin and mineral intakes are insufficient.

Fortifying foods and beverages will increase vitamin and mineral intake without adding calories. Consumption of juices fortified with vitamins D and E improves nutrient status of children within 12 weeks. Fortified foods are an important source of micronutrients. People who do not consume fortified foods and beverages are at much higher risk of not meeting nutrient requirements.

One way to increase essential nutrient intake without adding calories is to use supplements. Multivitamin-mineral supplements are an important source of nutrients for many children. Dietary supplement use helps improve nutrient intakes for magnesium, phosphorous, vitamins A, C and E. Fewer than 5% of young children, the most vulnerable, have higher than recommended intakes when using multivitamin-mineral supplements providing 100% of the RDA for 9 vitamins and minerals. Yet even with multivitamin-mineral supplement use, more than 1/3 of US children fail to meet calcium and vitamin D recommendations.

In the end, nutritional status depends upon what we ingest. Are you consuming enough vitamin and minerals to meet your daily requirements? Is your child?

Main Citation

Langendorf C, Roederer T, de Pee S, Brown D, Doyon S, Mamaty A-A, Toure L W-M, Manzo ML, Grais RF. Preventing acute malnutrition among young children in crises: A prospective intervention study in Niger. 2014 PLoS Med doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001714

Other Citations

Jansen PW, Tharner A, van der Ende J, Wake M, Raat H, Hofman A, Verhulst FC, van Ijzendoorn M, Jaddoe VWV, Tiemeier H. Feeding practices and child weight: is the association bidirectional in preschool children? 2014 Am J Clin Nutr doi: 10.3945/ajcn.114.088922

Bailey RL, Fulgoni VL, Keast DR, Lentino CV, Dwyer JT. Do dietary supplements improve micronutrient sufficiency in children and adolescents?2012  J Pediatric doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2012.05.009

Economos CD, Moore CE, Hyatt RR, Kuder J, Chen T, Meydani SN, Meydani M, Klein E, Biancuzzo RM, Holick M. Multinutrient-fortified juices improve vitamin D and vitamin E status in children: a randomized controlled trial. 2013 J Acad Nutr Diet doi: 10.1016/j.and.2013.07.027

Wallace TC, McBurney M, Fulgoni III VL. Multivitamin/mineral supplement contribution to micronutrient intakes in the United States, 2007-1010. 2014 J Am Coll Nutr doi: 10.1080/07315724.2013.846806

Eicher-Miller HA, Fulgoni VL, Keast DR. Contributions of processed foods to dietary intake in the US from 2003-2008: A report of the Food and Nutrition Science Solutions Joint Task Force of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, American Society for Nutrition, Institute of Food Technologists, and International Food Information Council. 2012 J Nutr doi: 10.3945/​jn.112.164442