“You are what you eat”, – this beautifully defines the effect of food on humans, but very few of us talk about what we don’t eat. Here, I am talking about one of the most essential nutrients in our food – micro nutrients. They are required in lesser amounts but micro nutrients such as, Vitamin A, iron, fol ate and iodine add to the nutritional value of food, and play one of the most vital role in a child’s proper development. A lack of these essentials in food can cause a condition known as – micro nutrient deficiency, in children as well as mothers.
Every day, more than 6,000 children die in India, and micro nutrient deficiency is accountable for more than half of these deaths. Moreover, out of all micro nutrient deficiencies – iron deficiency is the most prevalent around the world, as this nutritional disorder equally affects both developing and developed countries.
Apart from iron, few other most prevalent micronutrient deficiencies are caused due to the lack of Vitamin A, folate, zinc and iodine.
So, how does micro nutrient deficiency affect a child’s growth?
Micro nutrient deficiency not only cause physical illness, but also affects the mental health of children. Each micro nutrient has a role to play in the proper growth of a child.
- A lack of vitamin A and zinc leads to slow and poor growth in infants, a drop in immunocompetence and makes the child more susceptible to infectious diseases.
- Iron deficiency can cause irreversible neurological impairment in a child, with reduced functionality of the immune system.
- Iodine – if not fed in proper amount to an infant can hinder the physical growth and cognitive development.
The repercussions caused due to micro nutrient deficiency can be experienced throughout the lifetime, and is a big loss to the economy of a nation. It is accounted that the treatment costs of micro nutrient deficiencies go up to 27 times higher, compared to the cost invested in its prevention.
Strong Steps to Prevent Micronutrient Deficiency
Organizations such as WHO, and UNICEF are doing their part to improve this situation on the global front.
UNICEF with the introduction of mechanisms like Village Health and Nutrition Days, are working towards spreading awareness about the cause, part from raising the demands for making supplements available for micronutrients like vitamin A and iron, for children and mothers.
WHO also promotes the idea, as it recommends that supplements for vitamin A should be made available for children between the age of 6 months-5 years, every 6 months in areas where vitamin A deficiency is prevalent. The issue has been addressed by the government of India, with the introduction of campaigns to provide vitamin A supplements, twice a year.
Relevant steps are being taken with the visible results. For example – India has been able to double the rates of life expectancy, and child mortality has dropped to half in the last 50 years. Still, there is a lot that needs to be done, because in developing countries almost 40% of preschool children are suffering from iron deficiency or anemia.
WHO, in its Global Targets 2025, has mentioned about its mission to improve maternal, infant and children health and nutrition, and are committed to monitor its progress.
All the efforts look promising and a healthier and nourished future is envisioned, for the upcoming generations.
Think about it and share your thoughts in comment box.