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Nutritional Issues That Affect Infants and Children

By Nicole Crawford ; Updated June 13, 2017

Infancy and childhood are periods of rapid, significant changes, and proper nutrition fuels your child's growth and development. Combine a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of exercise and fresh air to ensure that your child receives all she needs to grow and develop properly. Always discuss any concerns you have about your child's diet with your family physician.

Vitamin D Deficiency

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, most children do not receive the recommended daily intake of vitamin D, which plays an important role in bone growth and development. Breastfed infants are also at risk for vitamin D deficiency since breast milk contains only small amounts. In fact, breastfed infants who do not receive a vitamin D supplement are most likely to develop rickets, a condition that causes soft and weak bones and is commonly observed in the first two years of life. The body produces vitamin D during sunlight exposure, and it can also be obtained from foods like fish, liver, cheese, egg yolks and fortified foods.

Iron Deficiency Anemia

Iron deficiency anemia continues to affect infants and children and is one of the more common nutritional deficiencies in the United States. Due to increased iron needs, children under the age of 3 are particularly at risk for iron deficiency anemia, according to Breastfed babies older than four months who do not receive iron-fortified foods like cereals are also at high risk. Toddlers who drink more than 3 cups of milk per day may also suffer from iron-deficiency anemia since milk often replaces dietary iron sources. Iron deficiency is also common during adolescence, particularly in teenage girls who have just started their menstrual cycles.

Calcium Deficiency

Low amounts of calcium can also contribute to the development of rickets, although vitamin D deficiency is the more common underlying cause. Inadequate calcium intake also contributes to higher instances of bone fractures in children, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Adequate calcium intake decreases the risk of your child developing osteoporosis later in life since it increases total bone mass and strength. Infants, toddlers and young children usually receive enough calcium from their diet. Most of the research demonstrating calcium deficiency has concerned older children and adolescents since most bone formation occurs at this stage.

Too Much Junk Food

When combined with an inactive lifestyle and too much television, regular intake of junk food contributes to the increase in overweight and obese children in the United States. Children who are overweight or obese are at increased risk for chronic disease later in life, such as type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol. In fact, according to Dr. Brenda Kohn, a pediatric endocrinologist at the New York University Medical Center, instances of type 2 diabetes in children have reached epidemic proportions, due in part to the widespread consumption of junk food.

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