Nutritional Supplementation for Catch-up Grown in Picky Eaters
Children with picky eating behavior who experience delayed growth may be able to rapidly increase their height and weight by taking a daily nutritional supplement Pediasure, according to a new study in Clinical Pediatrics (2003;42:209–17). Those taking the nutritional supplement also had fewer upper respiratory tract infections during the treatment period.
Some studies suggest that the parents of as many as 45% of all children in the United States are so concerned about their children’s eating habits that they contact a pediatrician for medical advice. While there is likely no single reason kids become finicky at the dinner table, eating patterns of parents, poor food quality, lack of food variety, and the family dining atmosphere may all play a role in how a child eats. Children who eat limited amounts or types of food may be predisposed to nutritional deficiencies, which could contribute to delayed growth and increased susceptibility to infections.
In the new study, 90 children between the ages of 36 and 60 months who fell below the twenty-fifth weight-for-height percentile were assigned to receive nutritional counseling alone or nutritional counseling plus a daily nutritional supplement containing protein, vitamins, and minerals and providing 540 calories per day for three months. The nutritional counseling included advice to eat smaller, more frequent meals; to increase food variety; to avoid soft drinks and limit juices; and to provide a pleasant dining atmosphere. No restrictions were placed on specific types of foods to eat. Height, weight, and weight-for-height percentiles were measured initially and then monthly for the duration of the study.
The children taking the nutritional supplement had a significant 13% increase in weight-for-height percentile after three months of treatment, compared with a 2% increase among those who only received nutritional counseling. The incidences of upper respiratory infections in the treatment group and nutritional-counseling-only group were 28% and 51%, respectively, suggesting the nutritional supplement may help strengthen the immune system.
Children who fall behind in growth due to picky eating can catch up relatively quickly by adding more nutrients to their daily diet. However, some studies have demonstrated that if growth is delayed too long early in life complete catch-up may not occur. Deficiencies of certain minerals, such as iron and zinc, are known to cause growth failure and impaired neurological development and immune function. Since nutritional status was not measured in this study, it is unknown whether a single nutrient or combination of nutrients in the supplement accounted for the increase in growth and the reduction in frequency of infections.
Darin Ingels, ND, MT (ASCP), received his bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. Dr. Ingels is the author of The Natural Pharmacist: Lowering Cholesterol (Prima, 1999) and Natural Treatments for High Cholesterol (Prima, 2000). He currently is in private practice at New England Family Health Associates located in Southport, CT, where he specializes in environmental medicine and allergies. Dr. Ingels is a regular contributor to Healthnotes and Healthnotes Newswire.
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