May, 14 2014 09:10:00

Early nutrition vital for children

Mothers feed their children at a breast feeding festival in HCM City. Experts said that breast feeding was the best way to ensure an infant gets these nutrients. — VNA/VNS Photo Phuong Vy
HCM CITY (VNS) — The importance of nutrition in the intellectual development of children was highlighted at a seminar in HCM City on Sunday.

Major infant brain growth occurs during pregnancy and throughout the first two years of life, with the brain reaching about 80 per cent of adult size at two years, according to Dr Craig Jensen from the department of pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine, the US.

During this period infants have the greatest need for docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (ARA), important nutrients that play a key role in the structure and function of neural tissues, most notably those of the retina and brain.

So it is important that infants obtain DHA and ARA from their diet in the golden stage from zero to two years to ensue an optimal brain and retinal development.

Breastfeeding is the best way to ensure an infant gets these nutrients, but if mothers are unable to feed their children, it is recommended that infants are fed supplemented formulas containing both DHA and ARA, he said.

Fatty fish, meat, and eggs are rich in the two substances.

Some studies have shown that infants who get optimal levels of DHA during gestation have better visual acuity, Jensen said.

Similarly, children who get adequate DHA and ARA in early life performed better in tests on sustained attention, psychomotor development, mental processing, and others compared to babies fed non-DHA-enriched formula.

An adequate intake of these nutrients might also help children improve immunological outcomes, he added.

According to the Viet Nam Paediatric Association, Viet Nam faces two challenges in relation to child nutrition: On the one hand, malnutrition remains a problem in most rural areas; on the other, the obesity rate among children is increasing, especially in major urban areas.

Parents should therefore improve their knowledge about children's nutrition to provide their child with the optimal diet to ensure both physical and mental development, it said.

Around 500 medical workers in the south took part in the seminar organised by the association and Mead Johnson Nutrition. — VNS

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