Overview of nutrition problems in children
Assessing the nutritional status is like the bottom line of children’s health. The first step is to measure height and weight in proper conditions and to calculate the body mass index (BMI). BMI for sex and age allows identifying overweight and obese as well as underweight children. Both situations lead to a clinical exam to find causative disease (obesity of endocrine or genetic origin, malnutrition from somatic or behavioral disease). Routine lab study might help whenever referral to a specialist is necessary. Nutritional anemia and vitamin D deficiency are two common situations in children that have to be screened and treated. The general practitioner has a central role in nutritional problems in children since he can manage the care within the whole family. This is particularly the case for obesity but also for dyslipidemia, which has to be screened for around 8 years, both being a major familial risk factor for cardiovascular diseases.
Common nutrition problems in children are:
Failure to thrive
Failure to thrive is a term that refers to a child whose weight or weight gain is not in line with children of the same age. Children may appear much shorter or smaller than others, and normal development, such as puberty, may be delayed. While failure to thrive can be a symptom of medical conditions such as chromosome abnormalities, chronic infections, and low birth weight, poor nutrition can also play a role. To treat failure to thrive that is due to a poor diet, it is essential to encourage a balanced diet including fruits, vegetables, and proteins.
Food refusal is a big contributor to poor nutrition in children. Whether it is a dislike of certain colors or textures, some children are just picky. When a child refuses to eat a variety of foods and limits herself to only one food or food group, the National Institutes of Health refers to this as a food jag. Making a rule that the child must at least taste each food on her plate is a good way to work around this. Food habits will change with time and, eventually, your child will begin to try other foods.
Allergy and intolerance
Food allergies can be common in children, with the most typical allergies being eggs, milk, and peanuts. Gluten and lactose intolerances can also be a factor. If your child has an allergy, this can affect his ability to get certain nutrients. For example, a milk allergy or lactose intolerance can affect the calcium intake of your child. If he has an allergy, talk to your physician about possible nutrient supplements that may be necessary.
Anemia is a condition in which the body does not have enough healthy red blood cells. A diet lacking in iron is the most common cause of anemia, and it often occurs in young children, usually between the ages of 9 and 24 months, whose diet consists of a lot of milk and not a lot of iron-rich foods. Cow’s milk reduces the body’s ability to absorb iron and can cause the intestines to lose a small amount of blood, which further reduces the red blood cells. Foods rich in iron include:
- Egg yolks
- Whole-grain bread
- But many pediatricians will prescribe an iron supplement.