Food For Thought: The Impact Of Nutrition In Childhood Development

Wednesday, November 10th, 2021

Adequate nutrition is important in all stages of life—from prenatal to late geriatric. One stage of development stands out as particularly important, setting the building blocks for the rest of adult life: early childhood.

According to the World Health Organisation, nutrition is a critical part of health and development. Better nutrition is related to improved infant, child and maternal health, stronger immune systems, safer pregnancy and childbirth, lower risk of non-communicable diseases (such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease), and longevity*. 

Research shows again and again that nutrition in the first 1,000 days of life has far-reaching impacts on a child’s ability to be successful cognitively and physically during all stages of development. 

The Importance of Nutrition for Kids 

Parents tend to understand—at least on a basic level—that carbohydrates, protein, and fat are necessary components in the diet and can also provide the primary foundation for bones, muscles, and tissues. Since not all calories are equal, parents have to acknowledge that beyond these macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fat), growing children also need micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) to maintain healthy growth. 

Although research continues to consider that there are open questions regarding the exact combination of macro and micronutrients required for optimal growth, scientific research has shown that micronutrients such as zinc, iron, iodine, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, and Vitamin C have important roles in the growth process. 

In addition to micronutrients, “milk has been specifically and repeatedly shown to exert an important influence on linear growth in both undernourished and well-nourished children” *. There is greater evidence that supports the positive effects of milk proteins on linear growth in healthy children, including whey protein*. One ingredient particularly important to make a note of in dairy is L-Arginine.  

L-Arginine & Growth  

L-Arginine is an amino acid that is essential for growth and development in humans. The reason this amino acid is a key player in growth and development is that it is a precursor for the synthesis of proteins and other biological organisms. The ability to break down proteins into amino acids is absolutely essential for growing children.  

Genetics & Height 

Among the benefits of healthy eating listed above, children’s height and final adult height can be determined by proper nourishment.  

Within each person’s natural predisposition, we know that 80 percent of final adult height is determined by genetic factors. The remaining portion of a child’s growth potential can be influenced by environmental factors, nutrition being a main component. When we can maximise a child’s nutrition, we also maximise their growth potential of height. 

“Genetics give you a range of how tall you may be, but nutrition determines where you fall in that range. Ensuring a child is nourished with the proper macro and micronutrients prior to puberty could impact their final adult height.”—Professor Ramanan Shamir, M.D. Diseases, Schneider Children’s Medical Centre, Professor of Paediatrics. 

Early Development Nutrition Tips 

Having a variety of foods in a diet is key for adequate nutrient consumption. Every snack, meal, and beverage offer different nutrient opportunities when fuelling the body.  

Exposing your child to a variety of foods early on can help with picky eating and food aversions.  

Food preferences are formed in infancy and are tracked into childhood and beyond. Complementary feeding practices are crucial to prevent obesity and other health related diseases later in life*.

An easy way to track if you are eating or serving a variety of nutritious foods is to look for colour diversity. Colours of foods (red, white, green, blue, etc) indicate different nutrient profiles.  

If your child does not like certain foods, say, broccoli, try to introduce a different green vegetable that tastes different, such as spinach, as they offer similar vitamins and fibre benefits.  

A Better Option  

For years, doctors and researchers from the Schneider Children’s Medical Centre have focused on childhood growth. Each year, the centre is visited by 20,000 children with growth-related issues.  

Inspired to create a solution for those who don’t qualify for Human Growth Hormone Therapy, experts from Schneider took their wealth of practical and clinical information and developed a formula to help children of short stature grow better. This research opened the door to an entirely new perspective on what is possible when families have access to products with a better nutritional profile.  

It can be difficult to achieve the complex nutritional profiles needed to maximise growth, especially when families are presented with products that are high in sugar and low in protein. The demand for day-to-day life makes serving perfectly balanced meals every day a challenge. There are “better-for-you” options out there, aided by nutritional supplementation. Doctors and researchers discovered that a unique combination of vitamins, minerals, and protein in the clinically studied formula made improvements in childhood growth possible.  

Healthy Heights™ Grow Daily 3+ from Nutritional Growth Solutions, is a clinically backed, patented formula shown to help children of short stature (ages 3-9) gain both unexpected height and non-obesogenic weight. The research associated with the flagship formula led the team to explore other relationships between nutrition and growth. Nutritional Growth Solutions recently launched their latest product Healthy Heights™ Grow Daily Boys 10+ which indicated a new data set related to muscle mass in pre-teen and teen boys. 

*References available upon request.

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