Nutrient. Nutrition Plays a Critical Role in the Development of Infants and Young Children

  • Early stages and early childhood are periods of rapid growth and development. During this critical window of development, nutrition lays the foundation for life-long health’s.
  • Nutritional deficiency during early stages and childhood is a common problem throughout the world. In 2020, 149 million children below the age of five were considered too short. And 45 million were underweight for their height, both strong indicators of malnutrition.
  • At a recent virtual event hosted by the International Special Dietary Foods Industries, Peter Van Deal, MD. Senior Vice President of Nutrition Science and Advocacy at DSM. Explores the latest scientific research on nutritional deficiencies in infants and young children. He also outlines the main components for addressing nutritional deficiencies, including the need for strict regulatory standards.


Nutrient Deficiencies are Especially Concerning in the First Years of Life

The first 1,000 days of life are a dangerous and vulnerable period of human development. During this time, proper nutrition is necessary to lay the foundation for long-term health. Micronutrients, which refer to trace elements and vitamins, play critical structural and functional roles throughout the body. Since early childhood is a period of intense physical and mental development. Micronutrient deficiencies early in life can significantly impair a child’s long-term potential. Poor nutrition during early development not only increases the risk of the child becoming ill but has also been report to increase the risk and susceptibility of developing significant medical conditions such as rickets, anemia, coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and osteoporosis.


Global Evidence of Nutrient Deficiency During the First Years of Life

Nutritional deficiencies during beginning and early childhood are a global concern. Globally, 45% of deaths of children under the age of five are related to malnutrition. 3 In addition, nearly a third of the world’s population is affect by one or more micronutrient deficiencies. 5

Studies have investigated the extent and importance of nutritional deficiencies in children worldwide. One study evaluated the nutritional status of Thai children aged six months to 12 years and found that more than 50% had low intakes of calcium, iron, zinc, vitamin A, and vitamin C. 9


Establishment of Dietary Recommendations that Help Treat Nutrient Deficiencies

Regulatory standards also play a critical role in helping to address nutrient deficiencies by providing industry-wide criteria for delivering safe, high-quality products to consumers. These guidelines provide information on safe nutrient levels and define product labeling information to help educate the consumer.

The Codex Alimentarius is an example of an international expert authority established by FAO and WHO to develop and approve international regulations that help support global efforts in nutrition and health. “The Codex Alimentarius provides a forum for key stakeholders to collaborate and develop safe and appropriate nutritional standards that help meet the nutritional goals that health authorities have defined to improve health and nutrition during childhood.”

Expert Guidance Helps Establish the Role of Infant Formulas in Treating Nutritional Deficiencies

An example of the role that expert guidance and regulatory standards can play in helping to improve nutrient intake concerns infant formulas, also known as growing-up milks (GUMs).

According to a 2013 EFSA report. Dietary intake of alpha linoleic acid (ALA), DHA, iron, vitamin D, and iodine was little in babies and children living in Europe. 27 Similarly, a study conducted in France found that consumption of cow’s milk in children aged one to two years caused deficiencies of ALA, iron, vitamin C, and vitamin D. 28 In this study, it was observed that the use of milk formulas specifically formulate for children 1 to 3 years old significantly reduce the risk of these insufficiencies.