PUNE: Micro-nutrient deficiency, especially in the first 1,000 days of life can lead to an impaired cognitive development. In these formative years, micro-nutrients like iron, zinc, folic acid, iodine and Vitamin A, play a very crucial role in ensuring optimum cognitive and physical growth of children and maintaining their overall health.
Experts from the city said that despite such a critical role of micro-nutrients, parents often fail to achieve their daily recommended dose, resulting in hidden hunger in children.
Dr Tushar Parikh, Consultant Neonatology, Columbia Asia Hospital, Pune said negligence is prevalent as the deficiency symptoms of these micro-nutrients do not show immediately.
“In fact, undernourished children may look as healthy and chubby as properly nourished. And once the child loses the critical window of opportunity that first 1,000 days bring, it is impossible to reverse the damage. This is why it is important that doctors assess the children carefully and suggest the corrective measure timely,” said Dr Parikh.
He said food fortification has a wider and more sustained impact on child’s growth and development. “Two bowls of fortified cereals a day can help bridge the nutrition gap in child’s diet. While the child’s most nutritional needs are met with exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months, giving a rapid brain and body development, the demands rise sharply after that. During this time babies need almost 5 times more nutrition than an adult,” said Dr Parikh.
Explaining why micro-nutrient deficiency is so common in children, even in affluent households Dr Lalit Rawal, MD, HOD, Pediatrics at Ruby Hall Clinic, Pune said there are many factors involved in this.
“Sometimes breast milk deficiency also leads to some key micro-nutrients deficiency like iron when it comes to vegan Indian diet, as it is not a good source of a few important micro-nutrients like zinc and folic acid. However, considering the extremely high percentage of micro-nutrients that need to be met by complementary foods, implementing scientifically validated interventional strategies, like food fortification, is needed,” said Dr Rawal.
‘UNDER-NUTRITION NOT A PROBLEM OF POVERTY’
- Experts indicated that under-nutrition is not the problem of poverty alone.
- In fact, according to World Health Organisation (WHO) Child Growth Standards, stunting is prevalent in 60 per cent of children under the age of five in the poorest of the households, it is also seen among 25 per cent children in the richest and 49 per cent children in the middle-income families.