Researchers at Purdue University have noted that adolescent and food-insecure children are at the greatest risk of having nutrient gaps because of their eating habits.
For the study, Heather Eicher-Miller, PhD and colleagues reviewed selected research on nutrient gaps in children over the last 10 years. The nutrient gaps were determined by a complete dietary assessment so they could gauge what children were missing in their diets.
They also took a look at research conducted on children in food-insecure or food-insufficient households. Many of these children were also found to be at high risk but more nationally representative studies need to be conducted for this group. The group of U.S. children categorized as food insecure includes children who are often skipping meals or consuming low-energy meals. Food insecurity is represented in 14.3 percent of all U.S. households and the national goal is to reduce it to 6 percent by 2020.
The research found U.S. children exhibited the following nutrient gaps:
0-12 months: Missing such essential vitamins as D and E
1-3 years: Missing vitamins D, E, K and fiber
4-8 years: Missing vitamin E and K
9-13 years: Females showed nutrient gaps in vitamin A, D, E and K but also in magnesium and potassium while males were deficient in vitamins D and E.
14-18 years: Females missing vitamins A, C, D, E as well as zinc, potassium, magnesium and calcium while males were deficient in A, C, D, E, calcium and magnesium.
Improving The Nutrients
There's a lot of opportunity for improving the nutrients of U.S. children, said Heather Eicher-Miller, PhD. of Purdue University. Adolescents are most at risk because in that age stage there's more independent choice in food as they are not relying on parents to make their dietary choices and because of their increased growth, they could suffer the consequences for having nutrient gaps. Supplements could be more effective if used in the older age group, but there are other groups who may benefit from supplements as well. Supplement use is higher among children who are already eating a good diet and whose parents are higher income and have more resources, but they may be missing the group who needs them most and have the most disparities.
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