Childhood Nutritional Deficiencies Are a Global 'Hidden Disability,' Says Wyeth Nutrition

PHILADELPHIA, April 30 /PRNewswire/ -- Global vitamin and mineral deficiencies in infants and young children's diets are still a significant public health problem in both developed and developing countries. The Academy of Pediatric Nutrition, a global group of nutritional experts gathered at the 3rd annual meeting in London, to discuss the impact these deficiencies have on child development and growth. Their remit is to discuss the latest thinking in infant nutrition and disseminate their findings to healthcare professionals and the public. At this meeting they were particularly focusing on iron, selenium and zinc deficiencies.

They presented data showing the prevalence of some mineral deficiencies; iron deficiency affects 17% of children in developed countries, rising to a staggering 42% in developing nations(1). In the Philippines it has even been recorded as high as 56.6% in infants between 6 months to a year of age(2). In addition over 70% of infants in South Africa have a zinc intake less than two thirds of the recommended daily allowance(3).

Dr Neville Belton, Honorary Fellow of the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Edinburgh said: "There are certain windows of opportunity for a child's optimum growth and mental development that should not be missed. From birth to three years of age it is crucial that children receive the correct nutrients."

A study reviewed at this meeting showed that infants who were iron deficient at 6 months of age showed lower scholastic achievement and poorer fine motor control and behavior when followed up at five and half years of age, than those who did not develop iron deficient anemia as infants(4).

Dr Belton continued "Once deficiency occurs it is probably too late to achieve optimal development. Ideally we need to prevent iron and other deficiencies when the brain is developing. There is a perception that giving iron later in the diet will compensate for any lack in early childhood. This may not be correct, in some cases the effects may be irreversible."

Dr Perla Santos-Ocampo, University of the Philippines, Manila, Philippines, said: "Iron deficiency may be a serious public health problem that can lead to irreversible developmental delay, impaired behavior, lower attention span and problem solving abilities, and growth retardation. In some areas of the world its prevalence remains the same today as it did ten years ago. It is a hidden disability."

Dr El-Khayat, Professor of Paediatrics, Ain-Shams University, Cairo added "Iron deficiency is obviously important, however selenium and zinc deficiencies are also common, causing impaired immune and neurological function; this can have a serious, long-term impact on children's development."

Dr Belton concluded: "Deficiencies are not diseases and can be prevented. In the USA and Taiwan they have dramatically reduced iron deficiency anemia in formula fed babies by fortifying infant, follow and toddler formulas. There is a strong argument for older infants and young children to be encouraged to eat iron-fortified foods and to continue with iron supplemented formulas to ensure that all their nutritional needs are fully covered."

As a result of this meeting the Academy is developing a scientific paper to use as a platform to help disseminate to healthcare professionals and educate the public.


      1. ACC/SCN 2000. Fourth Report of the World Nutrition.


      2. 5th National Nutrition Survey DOST-FNRI 1998.


      3. TBC


      4. Lozoff B, Jimenez E, Hagen J et al. Poorer Behavioural and Developmental Outcomes More than 10- Years After Treatment for Iron Deficiency in Infancy. Pediatrics;2000: 105(4):E51 SOURCE Wyeth Nutrition
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