Nutritional deficiency occurs when we do not eat a healthy, nutritious and a balanced diet. This results in digestion problems, skin diseases, bone and joint problems, neurological disorders, etc. Nutrient deficiencies are prevalent worldwide and are seen in both, adults and children. Many diseases and comorbid conditions (or illnesses) arise from nutritional deficiencies. It is essential to address nutritional deficiencies in time to prevent chronic, long-term health problems.

Nutritional deficiencies in children are not associated or restricted to poor and developing countries but is also seen in children in the developed worlds. Nutrient deficiencies may occur in children who do not eat a balanced diet, which often results in inadequate intake of fiber, iron, zinc, vitamin B, and vitamin D. 

In this article, we will look at:

a. Common signs of nutritional deficiencies in children

b. Health issues and conditions that are caused by different types of nutrient deficiencies

8 Signs of Nutritional Deficiencies in Children

  • Delayed speech

  • Hyperactivity

  • Frequent colds and coughs

  • Dry skin/hair

  • Depression/anxiety

  • Crowding of teeth

  • Increased crankiness

  • Obesity

Common Nutritional Deficiencies and Their Impact in Children

1. Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is essential for the absorption of calcium along with iron, magnesium, phosphate, and zinc. Vitamin D is necessary for optimal bone growth in children and to keep off rickets (a condition that results in weak or soft bones in children). The skin produces vitamin D when exposed to natural sunlight. Children with little sun exposure might not get enough of it.

The earliest symptoms of vitamin D deficiency are seen in the form of bone and muscle soreness. If the deficiency is not corrected, it can lead to serious skeletal deformities in children. 

2. Iron Deficiency (Anaemia)

Iron makes it possible for red blood cells to carry oxygen to all the vital organs and throughout the body. Children need iron for a wide variety of bodily functions. They can get enough iron through beef, pork, tofu, dried beans, dark green leafy vegetables, iron-fortified cereals, breads, and pastas. 

Symptoms of iron deficiency or anaemia in children include tiredness, pale skin (especially around the hands, nails, and eyelids), rapid heartbeat or possibly a heart murmur, irritability, low appetite, dizziness, or even a condition known as pica (a psychological disorder commonly seen in children eating non-food items such as dirt, pencils, paper, chalk, etc.).  

3. Vitamin B Deficiency

Vitamin B is responsible for the active creation of red blood cells in children. They also help to maintain a strong immune system. A diet that is lacking B vitamins can affect a child’s ability to learn and focus at school. 

Children commonly present with symptoms like nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, loss of appetite, indigestion, constipation, skin rashes, and fatigue. Some important sources of vitamin B complex that must be included in your child’s diet are dairy products, eggs, meat, nuts, potatoes, whole grains, liver, and poultry.

4. Zinc Deficiency

Zinc is a trace mineral that is often forgotten when it comes to nutritional needs. It usually takes a backseat to other well-known minerals like calcium and magnesium. However, zinc is equally important for growth and healthy development in children. 

Symptoms of zinc deficiency include poor appetite, weight loss, and changes in sense of taste and/or smell. If left untreated, zinc deficiency can lead to stunted growth, poor wound healing, and hair loss.

Foods rich in zinc include nuts, red meat, potatoes with skins, shellfish, beans, and mushrooms.

Your child may show any of the above symptoms and it is often confused with other problems. Talk to your peadiatrician to identify the possibilities of a nutritional deficiency.

Disclaimer: This article is written by the Practitioner for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.