Role of micronutrients for physical growth and mental development
- Cite this article as:
- Singh, M. Indian J Pediatr (2004) 71: 59. doi:10.1007/BF02725658
Due to control of florid and severe cases of protein-energy malnutrition, deficiencies of micronutrients in children have assumed public health importance. According to National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau of India, over 50% of apparently healthy looking children have subclinical or biochemical deficiencies of vitamin A, vitamins B2, B6, folate and vitamin C. Over two-third of children have clinical evidences of iron deficiency while deficiency of trace minerals like iodine and zinc is quite common in certain populations. Children have food preferences and they are quite fussy to take green leafy vegetables and fruits thus compromising their intake of micronutrients from dietary sources. The full genetic potential of the child for physical growth and mental development may be compromised due to subclinical deficiencies of micronutrients which are commonly referred to as “hidden hunger”. Micronutrients are required for the integrity and optimal functioning of immune system. Children with subclinical deficiency of micronutrients are more vulnerable to develop frequent and more severe common day-to-day infections thus triggering a vicious cycle of undernutrition and recurrent infections. A number of micronutrients are required for optimal physical growth and neuromotor development. Isolated deficiencies of micronutrients are rare in clinical practice and usually deficiencies of multiple micronutrients co-exist. The first 3 years of life are most crucial and vulnerable to the hazards of undernutrition. All efforts should be made so that preschool children are given a balanced and nutritious home-based diet. However, it has been shown that it is not possible to meet 100% requirements of recommended dietary allowances (RDA’s) of micronutrients from dietary sources alone and most preschool children need administration of nutritional supplements to optimize their genetic potential for physical growth and mental development.