Educational marketing focused on nutrition could help close micronutrient gaps in ‘vulnerable’ toddlers

The review​ looked at the micronutrient adequacy of the diets of 9,848 children aged 1-6 years in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, and revealed the proportion of children not meeting the dietary reference intakes of key micronutrients increased with age and was most pronounced for calcium, vitamin D, potassium, choline and fiber.

For example, 79.2% of 1- to 2-year-olds were deficient in vitamin D compared to 87.3% of 2- to 3-years olds and 90.8% of 4- to 6-year-olds. Similarly, 3.6% of 1- to 3-year-olds were deficient in calcium compared to 30.4% of 4- to 6-year-olds.

The review, which is only one of a handful of studies to look at nutrient efficiency of diets for toddlers and children just beyond the first 1,000 days, also revealed deficiencies of vitamins E and B6, DHA, and iron were prevalent among 1- to 6-year-olds.

Overall, the drop in micronutrient levels from infancy through six years illustrates the vulnerability of children in this age range as they transition from milk as their main source of energy to more solids and eventually the family’s diet, according to the study.

“During this period children may also develop selective food preferences that eliminate certain foods and or food groups,”​ explain the researchers.

The deficits also could be attributed in part to caregivers not fully understanding children’s dietary needs and how quickly their growing bodies and brains use nutrients. Emerging dietary patterns – such as plant-based – which might not have as many child-friendly options with the micronutrients at risk of falling short also could contribute to the decline.

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