Nutrition needs in European Children

The British Journal of Nutrition devoted a supplement to the topic of Nutritional needs of children. This is a must read for nutritionists. ( BJN Vol 92, Supplement 2 October 2004 pp S 67-232)
This report based on two expert committees and gives an overview of the analysis of children’s nutritional needs in Europe. The data currently is diverse, based on a wide range of national criteria and often extends only to age 2years.
The nutrient needs of children include high and specific needs for nutrition particularly at times of rapid growth, infancy , pre school period and pre-pubertal period. Children have needs based on gender, metabolic needs including turnover, growth development and differentiation, physical activity and eating patterns and changing body composition with age.
The child is not a small adult but a future adult.
They have high metabolic demands but little body storage capacity, very much a just on time provision. As the modern child has quite an long expectation of life the laying down of healthy tissues is important.
Values for children are often extrapolated from adult values on a data per body weight or body surface area. The problems are compounded by the sometimes poor data that the calculations are based on.
Terminology is also a problem, Population Reference Values, Reference Values for Nutrient Intake , Dietary Reference Intake are used in different parts of Europe. . The use of these reference values vary.
Reference values are used for labelling of nutrient content of foods. Or recommending food intakes for populations.
It is also important to know what should be and what is actually eaten in the face of over eating and the current high prevalence of Obesity.
The eating patterns of children are changing across Europe. More time is spent watching television ands snacking. The orderly pattern of breakfast, lunch and evening meal consisting of home made foods may no longer be the pattern for many. The portion size of prepared foods is increasing. Overweight is not necessarily due to eating too much food and the problem is clearly complex.
The review gives detailed data for all nutrient requirements, country to country.
Food and eating habits are changing across Europe especially with a more global view and also better economic status. . Water intake and how the water is drunk is important, and need to be calculated along with metabolic water. . Sugary soft drinks, tea or plain water will have a different impact on the person. Also the ambient temperature and physical activity will influence water needs
The diet may influence cognition and behaviour in children. Whether or not the child eats breakfast is important.

Martin Eastwood
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