Areas of expertise / Pediatrics

Pediatrics

What are we talking about?

Pediatric malnutrition is characterized by an inadequate or imbalanced intake of nutrients essential for child’s growth and development. It encompasses both the insufficient intake of essential nutrients, leading to conditions such as stunting and wasting, and the excessive consumption of calories, primarily from unhealthy sources, resulting in overnutrition and overweight. This nutritional imbalance significantly impairs children’s growth, development, and general well-being(1,2).

  • Stunting is diagnosed when a child is too short for their age.
  • Wasting refers to a child who is too thin for their height.
  • Overweight occurs when a child is too heavy for their height.

Each form of malnutrition poses significant health risks and requires targeted interventions(2).

Prevalence and consequences

The prevalence and consequences of pediatric malnutrition are profound global health concerns. As of 2020, staggering numbers reflect this reality: 149.2 million children worldwide under the age of 5 were stunted, 45.4 million suffered from wasting, and 38.9 million were overweight. This condition not only impedes physical growth and development but also compromises cognitive function and immune response, leading to increased susceptibility to infections and diseases(1,2).

The role of oral nutritional supplements

Oral nutritional supplements provide crucial nutrients and calories to children who have difficulty meeting their dietary needs through regular food, such as picky eaters, those with medical conditions and those with increased nutritional demands due to growth spurts or active lifestyles. Nutrient-dense and easily digestible supplements support optimal growth, immune function, and overall health, offering a palatable solution for a wide range of dietary challenges. Available in various flavors and formats, they guarantee even the most selective eaters can receive the necessary nutritional support(3).

Frequent questions

1. Does income influence the likelihood of experiencing pediatric malnutrition?

72% of all children affected by wasting reside in lower-middle-income countries. Meanwhile, in upper-middle-income countries, stunting has decreased by half yet overweight is steadily rising, affecting 45% of children living there(2).

2. What factors contribute to stunting pediatric growth?

Numerous factors can hinder the growth potential of specific children. Inadequate growth may present in individuals with underlying medical conditions such as cerebral palsy, congenital heart disease, cystic fibrosis, liver disorders, or cancer. Such occurrences often stem from inadequate nutritional intake during illness or heightened nutritional demands. Furthermore, growth challenges may arise in the absence of disease-related causes, such as feeding difficulties(2).

3. What are the essential nutrients for proper growth in children?

Proper growth in children is supported by a balanced intake of essential nutrients, which are critical not only for physical development but also for cognitive health and immune function. Proteins play a foundational role in building and repairing body tissues, making them indispensable throughout a child’s growth phases. Carbohydrates are the primary energy source, fueling daily activities and supporting brain function. Fats, especially essential fatty acids like omega 3, are vital for brain development and energy provision.

Regarding micronutrients, vitamins and minerals are also crucial for the optimal growth of children. Essential nutrients such as vitamin D and calcium, alongside vitamins K1 and K2, are fundamental for bone health, preventing conditions such as rickets. Additionally, vitamins A and C, along with minerals such as selenium and zinc, are key for supporting a robust immune response. Iron is indispensable for its role in neurodevelopment and support in cognitive functions(3).

Bibliography

  1. Nutrients. Effect of Oral Nutritional Supplementation on Growth in Children with Undernutrition: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. 2021.
  2. World Health Organization. Levels and trends in child malnutrition: UNICEF/WHO/The World Bank Group joint child malnutrition estimates: key findings of the 2021. 2021.
  3. EFSA. Dietary Reference Values for nutrients Summary report. EFSA Supporting Publications. 2017. JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr. Defining pediatric malnutrition 2013.

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