The childhood years are developmentally critical, setting the stage for lifelong health and well-being. Pound for pound, children need more nutrients than adults to support their rapid growth and development.1 In early childhood the immune and neurological systems are still developing, requiring adequate nutritional support to fight disease, build brainpower and assure healthy eyesight. During their school years children are gaining their permanent teeth, building bone density that will carry them through the rest of their lives, and continuing to strengthen cognitive performance. Growing children must have the appropriate nutrients in the right amounts to support the healthy development of their bodies and minds.
Learn more about key nutrients omega-3 DHA, vitamin D, vitamin C, vitamin E, minerals, lutein and zeaxanthin
As the brain continues to grow and develop throughout early childhood and adolescence, maintaining brain health through good nutrition is critical. During the formative grade school years children undergo dramatic transformation in physical growth, intellectual development, social learning and skill building. Optimal nutrition fuels healthy development of the mind and body, equipping the child to develop its full potential. Studies have shown that nutrition can enhance academic performance in school-aged children and help them reach their mental and cognitive potential.1 Micronutrients that play important roles in brain performance and learning include B vitamins, iron and omega-3 DHA.2
Everyday interactions with other children, including playgroups or daycare, further test a child’s developing immune system. Most parents of preschool children know the frustration of nursing their young child through frequent infections such as coughs and colds, flu, pink eye, earache and sore throat. This is because the immature immune system is still learning to recognize and respond to a variety of germs, and as a consequence, young children are more susceptible to disease and have more frequent infections than adults.1 Proper nutrition is essential for building up an effective immune response. Children may be at risk of deficiency of nutrients that support immunity including vitamins A, C, D, and E; the minerals iron, zinc and selenium; and omega-3 DHA. 2 Inadequate intake and status of these nutrients may lead to suppressed immunity, which can predispose children to infections and possibly contribute to malnutrition.
Early childhood is a period of rapid eye development with visual acuity improving to near adult levels by four years of age. Healthy eyes and vision play a fundamental role in how young children learn as well as perceive the world around them. A proper balance of nutrients is essential for optimal eye development. Shortages of key nutrients can result in vision problems and developmental delays. Nutrients that support eye health in young children include omega-3 DHA, lutein, zeaxanthin and vitamins C and E.
To support young children’s rapidly growing bodies, it is important to ensure they receive optimal levels of vitamins and minerals to maximize their peak bone mass. Peak bone mass determines the resistance and susceptibility to bone fracture. Proper nutrition results in higher peak bone mass during infancy, which lays the groundwork for maintaining bone health throughout life.1 Key nutrients for bone health include minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, fluorine, magnesium, and vitamins C, D and K.
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1. Thurnham, D. I., et al. (2005). “Micronutrients in childhood and the influence of subclinical inflammation.” Proc Nutr Soc 64(4): 502-509
2.. Schuchardt JP, et al. (2010) Eur J Pediatr 169:2;149-64