Common Childhood Deficiencies

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November 13, 2013 by thehealthyheartcenter

While a well-balanced diet is important at every age to ensure adequate intake of all essential nutrients, children have a higher risk of developing certain nutritional deficiencies. Most children meet or exceed their nutritional recommendations of vitamins and minerals. However key nutrients such as iron, calcium, and vitamin D remain some of the most common nutritional deficiencies in children. It is important to make sure your child is eating a well-balanced diet in order to prevent complications with bone health and growth.

Iron is the most common deficiency in children. This can result in iron-deficiency anemia which can delay growth and development, fatigue, and increased susceptibility to infection, and reductions in physical performance/endurance. Some risk factors that increase the likelihood of iron-deficiency anemia besides low iron intake are: inadequate vitamin C intake, vegan diets, calorie-restricted diets, and skipping meals. Females are at higher risk than males. All adolescent females should be screed every 5 years for anemia and if they have one or more risk factors they should be screened annually. So what food are rich with iron?
– red meat, chicken, turkey, fish, kale, spinach, beans, lentils and fortified breads and cereals/
Plant sources of Iron are better absorbed when consumed with Vitamin-C rich foods such as many fruits and vegetables like strawberries, oranges, and tomatoes to name a few.

This may be the most essential nutrient in regards to bone health. Calcium deposits in the bones, helping build them. However, bones are constantly being broken down and building new. This is why it is essential to consistently consume calcium. This is also major concern for development and prevention of osteoporosis. In the mid-twenties we enter adulthood with a certain level of calcium in our bones and it begins to deteriorate. Children not only need it to help with healthy development and growth but also for later in life. Low fat dairy products are great sources of calcium along with many legumes and vegetables. The following are some significant sources:
– milk, yogurt, cheese, pinto beans, red beans, tofu, white beans, bok choy, kale, chinese cabbage, broccoli, spinach, and almonds

Vitamin D
This vitamin also aids in bone health by boosting the absorption of calcium and phosphorus in our bodies. Among all populations in the US, most people are deficient. While naturally Vitamin D is not present in many foods, it is added to many such as cheese, cereals, soy drinks, breads, orange juice, yogurt and most milks. Additionally, our bodies convert sunlight (uv rays) into vitamin D. Therefore, encourage your children to go outside and play or go on a quick walk. Excessive exposure is not needed but if staying indoors too much, children may not be getting the sun exposure needed to convert vitamin D. 


Overall, a well balanced diet is key to providing all essential nutrients for all individuals. Some types of populations may be at risk for certain deficiencies and in some cases may need supplementation. Therefore, it is important to be aware of risks and signs/symptoms. Note that the level of Calcium in the bone can not be determined by blood tests but having a bone density scan can determine the strength of bones indicating calcium levels. If your child has risk factors check with your doctor and make sure they consume adequate intake of those nutrients.

Sources: Nutrition Through the Life Cycle textbook by Judith E. Brown,


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