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Dra Sarabeth

The Importance of Early Nutrition for Growth and Metabolism


Sarabeth V. De Castro, MD, DPPS, DPSPGHAN

Tuesday, June 30th, 2020

Children undergo important activities involving growth and metabolism in their early years of life. This period of life will help determine the future overall health of the child.

The critical window for health

The first few years of life is a crucial period for optimal growth and development. During this time, key milestones develop: the brain grows rapidly, the immune system matures, and even early cognitive and socio-emotional relationships are established.1

Early dietary exposures of children are also shaped at this time and appears to affect body composition and disease risk later in life.2 Indeed, nutrition plays a significant role in supporting this sensitive window of opportunity. Providing optimal nutrition with the right amount of macro- and micronutrients at this critical period is needed to support adequate physical growth, metabolism, and immune development of a child. Other sufficient key nutrients to support neurodevelopment should be given as well.3

Optimal nutrition

Optimal and balanced nutrition among preschool children will allow adequate growth, strengthen immunity, provide energy, and help reduce the risk of early development of noncommunicable diseases. Nutritional challenges in this crucial time relate to giving the right quality of nutrient and avoiding excessive intake of nutrient-poor and high-calorie food.4

Managing optimal nutrition among preschool children will include providing a variety of nutrient-dense food including fruits, vegetables, grains, quality protein, and dairy products.4 Lactose-containing milk with no added sucrose can provide enough energy for the active child and optimum levels of protein in milk can help prevent later risk for obesity.

The benefits of good nutrition are undeniable. Best health outcomes were seen among children who are well-nourished in their early years of life. This window of opportunity provides a great chance to deliver the best nutrition to ensure normal growth development and help every child discover their amazing possibles.



1. Grantham-McGregor S, et al. Developmental potential in the first 5 years for children in developing countries. Lancet. 2007 Jan 6:369(9555):60-70.

2. Fewtrell MS, et al. Preventive aspects of early nutrition. Nestle Nutrition Institute Workshop Series Vol.85. 2016. Karger: London.

3. Schwaszenberg S, Georgieff M. Advocacy for improving nutrition in the first 1000 days to support childhood development and adult health. Pediatrics. 2018 Feb;141(2):e20173716.

4. Giddling S, et al. Dietary Recommendations for Children and Adolescents: A Guide for Practitioners. Pediatrics. 2006 Feb;117(2):544-559.

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