Macro need of micronutrients

Sudha Kapoor, 35-year old working mother, carefully dedicates time when it comes to planning and preparing a nutritious meal and tiffin for her five year old daughter. She would put in an extra blob of butter on her parantha, would make her favorite fried snacks and occasionally would make innovative recipes masking healthy vegetables.

She would even reads up on blogs and magazines to
accommodate variety and nutrition in her daughter’s snacks and meals. However, she was starkly surprised to find copious amounts of hair in her daughter’s comb. Upon asking, her daughter even complained of brittle nails and constant leg aches.

A blood test revealed that her daughter was anemic and also had calcium deficiency.

From time immemorial, the perception of growth has been skewed among Indian mothers.
Mothers have traditionally remained satisfied with the growth and development of their children by observing increase in height and weight, but experts opine that height and weight are not the only parameters of healthy growth and that parents are overlooking the need to monitor more factors to ensure a more comprehensive, integrated and healthy growth for their children.

Prof. Dr. Sanjeev bagai, Padma Shree presidential awardee, Sr. consultant paediatrician, Vice chairman & director dean  Manipal hospital dwarka says, “The diets fed to children are predominant in fat and sugars and deficient in micronutrients. The options of fast foods and processed foods further widen the gap which is manifested by deficiency symptoms. Simply weighing more on the weighing scale can also mean increased fat percentage. Thus mothers must take special care when it comes to monitoring their child’s growth well”

Invisible but ubiquitous, micronutrient deficiency becomes well pronounced when deficiency symptoms become apparent. Micronutrient deficiency, with regards to vitamins and minerals are seen among wide strata of people, the affluent and among the lower income groups. The health consequences may be stealthy but devastating for the development potential of the individual, society and economy as a whole.

Experts say children in the age group between 5 – 10 years experience rapid physical, cognitive, biochemical, emotional and social growth. Girls in this age group experience pubertal changes. This period of childhood precedes adolescence—the transitional stage of development between childhood and adulthood. Due to increased growth and metabolism, the nutritional requirements of children are higher in proportion to body weight compared with adults. In this growth spurt time, requirements for all nutrients increase manifold.

Prof. Dr. Sanjeev bagai says, “Although their demands for energy and protein are met, the micronutrients like vitamins and minerals are lacking”.

World Health Organization pegs the global child death figures at 10.8 million of which 19% are due to deficiency of micronutrients like vitamin A, Zinc and Iron [3].Acute micronutrient deficiency brings about symptoms like palor, fatigue, weakness, food cravings, hair loss, joint aches, menstrual issues, lack of concentration among many]. 

Growth retardation, low immunity to diseases, morbidity and in worst cases death are some of the long term effects of micronutrient deficiencies.

Probing into the problem, experts state that relying on processed and highly refined ingredients devoid of vitamins and minerals is the main culprit. Consuming a balanced diet will help meet some of the demands, however, for certain micronutrients, supplementation is essential to prevent the long term effects.

Prof. Dr. Sanjeev bagai says, “Micronutrients play an essential role in metabolic processes of our body. Generally required in small amounts, our body stores these micronutrients. That is why full blown symptoms and conditions occur when they are deficient. Food based interventions like including nutrient rich vegetables, fruits and nuts can definitely help meet demands. Additionally, supplementation of micronutrients by including fortified drinks will bridge the gap”.

There is widespread consensus among experts about the need for holistic nutrition which addresses demands of not just macro nutrients but micronutrient in a child. Increased awareness among parents and caretakers is the next step to ensure a healthy and well-rounded childhood.