Vitamins and minerals for children


Malnutrition still exists in modern times despite we live in an era of economic abundance. In most countries, we rarely face food shortage. However, important elements to complete a wholesome nutritional requirement might still be lacking in our modern dietary lifestyle.

This includes diet for children as well. These elements are vitamins and minerals which are essential and they can only be sourced from diet. However, these vitamins and minerals would be sufficient in small amount only and usually should be easily fulfilled by a balanced and wholesome diet.

Do kids need supplements?

Children who are picky eaters would tend to lose out on these important elements due to inadequate dietary intake. For these group of children especially, it is recommended to take daily supplement. To put it briefly, children who have poor appetite, with irregular eating habits or part of a peculiar eating lifestyle (vegan/vegetarian) would need supplementation of vitamins. Vitamins A and C intake is usually inadequate for these children. Vitamin D, usually sourced from sunlight (which many of us tend to shy away from), is also difficult to get from food alone.

Let’s go through the important elements that could be easily missed from an incomplete diet.

Vitamin A
Vitamin A is essential for normal growth and healthy skin. It also helps in both night (dim light) and color vision.

Source: dairy products, yellow vegetables – carrots, corn, pumpkin, green vegetables – spinach, brocolli, cabbage

Vitamin B
The vitamins in this group such as Thiamine(B1), Riboflavin (B2) and Pyridoxine(B6) plays an important role in cell metabolism which is important in production of energy and overall health. The B vitamins are also important in red cell production.

Source: Meat (including fish and poultry), liver, milk, whole grains, bread, cereals, eggs

Vitamin C
Vitamin C increases resistance to infection, improves healing and strengthen the tissues in our body such as skin and muscle and other connective tissues. Iron absorption is also aided by this vitamin.

Source: Oranges and other citrus fruits , kiwi fruit, tomatoes, strawberries, brocolli, spinach

Vitamin D
Vitamin D is vital as builder of bones. It is a regulator of calcium and phosphorus absorption and its overall metabolism in the body. Therefore, a child with healthy bones and teeth must not be deprived of vitamin D.

Source: Sunlight , fish oils, egg yolks, specially fortified dairy products

Who is at risk for Vitamin D deficiency? Babies and young children from 6 months to 5 years old, older people aged 65 above, pregnant and breastfeeding women, people who are not exposed to direct sunlight – those who cover their skin or confined to indoors for prolonged periods. Take note that darker skin individuals need longer time of sunlight exposure for Vitamin D production.

According to South East Asian Nutrition Surveys (SEANUTS) which began in 2009 and involved 16,744 children, almost half of their study population have low levels of vitamin D. In addition to that, more than a third did not obtain sufficient amounts of energy, calcium and vitamin D in the diet.

This mineral is crucial for production of blood as well as muscle building. For a growing child, one must have adequate iron intake.

Source : Meat (beef, turkey), liver, bayam(spinach)

This mineral is vital for bone development and ensuring bone strength. Calcium deficiency will certainly affect growth due to abnormal bone development and also cause osteoporosis in adulthood.

Source: Milk, cheese,yogurt, vegetables such as spinach, brocolli

Amino Acids
Amino acids are building blocks of proteins and they are crucial for normal growth and development for the child, and production of antibodies.

9 out of the 22 amino acids (building blocks of proteins) are considered as essential amino acids. This is because food is the only source to get adequate supply of these 9 amino acids.
A WHO study revealed that lysine, methionine, cysteine, threonine and tryptophan as the most important essential amino acids lacking in diet of children in the developing world.

What is Lysine ?
Lysine is one of the essential amino acids.
Lysine helps improve appetite and will help improve child’s food variety intake. Besides that, lysine enhances intestinal absorption as well as enhances calcium absorption for preventing osteoporosis.
Unfortunately, many children do not get adequate lysine in their diet and studies have shown that those who were supplemented with lysine led to improved growth and weight gain.

It is important for children to have a good appetite and healthy diet

One could not overemphasise the importance for children to have a healthy, wholesome and balanced diet to ensure that they would get all the important elements. Eating a variety of food in healthy amount would achieve this aim.
Children who are picky eating, who have poor appetite or those practising special kind of diet would benefit from receiving supplements. Supplements that are useful are those that will improve their appetite and prevent deficiencies of these important elements so that we can ensure healthy growth and development for our children.

Effects of Lysine and Essential Fatty Acid Deficiencies on Bone Growth and Development in the Rat, Pakistan Journal of Nutrition 6 (3): 234-237, 2007

(By Dr Foo Chee Hoe  & Ms Kimberly Wong)

This feature is an educational initiative by, with support from Pharmaton Kiddi CL.

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