Nutrition and growth

Food consumption has a tremendous influence on human lives and is essential to life itself. Eating appropriate amounts of a wide variety of foods helps to maintain optimal health. Prolonged periods of poor food choices may cause impaired health. People need approximately 50 nutrients for growth and maintenance of health. These nutrients are present in a wide variety of different types of foods. Carbohydrates, lipids and proteins are energy nutrients which give the human body the energy it needs for moving and doing work, as well as for such vital activity as breathing and pumping blood. Minerals, a category made up of more than 20 nutrients perform a variety of functions, although they are not sources of energy. Vitamins are regulatory substances needed in even smaller amounts than minerals. At present, 13 vitamins are recognized as essential nutrients. Every person, (whether a child or mature adult), needs good nutrition in order to maintain good health and this can be supplied by a well-balanced healthy diet taken in regular meals and in appropriate surroundings (Wright, 2000).

The evidence in the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Database on Child Growth (De Onis et al, 2000) and Malnutrition gives a description of the magnitude and geographical distribution of childhood under- and over-nutrition worldwide. Analyses based on the database's information confirm that child under-nutrition remains a major public health problem in many countries, and can hamper children's physical growth and mental development. Indeed, it may even be a major threat to their survival. Despite an overall decrease in poor growth in developing countries, in some, poor growth is increasing in prevalence and in many others the incidence of growth faltering remains disturbingly high(De Onis et al, 2000, 1993 ). An important observation which has been made, is that the pattern of growth faltering in developing countries, not only within a region but also globally, are remarkably similar even though different instruments and measuring methods were used in the surveys. This suggests that interventions during the earliest periods of life are likely to have the greatest impact in promoting good nutrition and preventing poor growth and development in children.

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