World Health Day (WHD) is celebrated every April 7. This is the day that commemorates the anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1948. WHD aims to focus on a specific theme relevant to public health each year. This year WHO is focusing global attention on urgent actions needed to keep humans and the planet healthy and foster a movement to create societies focused on wellbeing.
Nutrition plays a very crucial role in ensuring humans are healthy. It is an important part of an individual’s overall health and development right from a very young age. Proper and balanced nutrition is directly linked to improved infant, toddler, child, and maternal health and wellbeing. It offers stronger immunity, lowers the risk of health problems such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and improves longevity. Also, healthy children are not just physically strong but also mentally sound. Having balanced and healthy nutrition also helps boost their productivity and helps create more opportunities to break the cycle of poverty eventually.
Malnutrition, in any form, poses a significant threat to human health. Not having proper and balanced nutrition can lead to malnutrition. Currently, the world faces two types of malnutrition – undernourishment, and obesity. The former tends to be more prevalent among the economically disadvantaged populations in low and middle-income countries.
Good nutrition in the early stages of life sets the stage for lifelong health. In the words of Anne Mulcahy, “Investing in early childhood nutrition is a surefire strategy. The returns are incredibly high.”
One of the keys to parenting healthy children is providing them with a healthy and nutritious diet..
Key nutrients in supporting optimal growth and development… When a child consumes a balanced diet, they can develop their physical and mental skills in the present and the future. The benefits impacted by nutrition while the child is young are:
- Ensures proper development of the brain, which helps the neurocognitive process
- Improves a child’s physical health and ensures an active social life as the child grows old.
- Supports the immune system to ably fight against various infectious diseases
Key nutrients for brain development… Phospholipids are known to be essential nutrients for brain development. These nutrients are structural components of neurological systems (neural networks), and deficits during early life can impact brain function long-term. Long-chain omega 3s like DHA and ARA and other brain-supportive nutrients may also benefit proper neural network development and enhance visual acuity and cognition.
Key nutrients for physical growth… Proteins are the building blocks of physical growth. Dietary protein requirements are higher in children than in adults because they have faster growth and development rates due to their increased cell turnover. Inadequacy of high-quality dietary proteins can cause stunted growth, poor body composition, and wasting. Calcium and vitamin D play an important role in physical development too. Calcium is the main component of the skeleton, while vitamin D ensures calcium reaches the growing bones.
Key nutrients for supporting immunity… A variety of vitamins and minerals that include micronutrients such as Vitamin A, B, C, D, E, Iron, Zinc, Magnesium, and Selenium, among others, have vital functions in the human body. Several studies have found that children provided with foods high in these essential micronutrients improve their immune system’s response rate and help them steer clear of various immune system diseases.
Childhood is the most significant period of growth and development, both physically and mentally. Setting the foundation with good nutrition during childhood has a profound impact, even during later life, and helps develop society and the world as a whole.
Multi-nutrient fortified Growing Up Milk such as Peak 456 formulated for children ages four to six is an excellent way to ensure optimal intake of several vitamins and minerals in a child’s daily diet.
On this World Health Day, let’s take a pledge to support WHO’s initiative of #OurPlanetOurHealth by focusing on good nutrition for our children’s health which can help them grow strong and smart.