Nutritional need is a crucial aspect in the growth and development of infants and children. Aside from facilitating the growth and development process, nutrition also gives a wide range of benefits, such as preventing the diseases resulted from malnutrition, such as anemia, dermatitis, and asthma.
Basic concept of nutritional need
Nutrient, the essential component of nutrition, is divided into two general categories, namely macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients, e.g. carbohydrate, protein, and fat, serve as a source of calories for the growth and development.
Micronutrients are no less important. They are the nutrients humans need during their lifetime for the whole physiological functions. Mineral (the trace element) is part of micronutrients that, even in a small amount, has enormous functions.
Essential role of trace element
The trace element is an essential component in various enzymes and transcription factors, thus its maximum amount is highly recommended at the critical stage of the brain development during pregnancy.
The so-called enormous functions apply during the fetal programming, a process that determines the further growth and development of the infants.
It is safe to say that the fetal programming or imprinting is the phase during which the responses to the environmental stimuli occurring during the critical stage of the intrauterine development are permanently set. The fetal development takes place during the formation of the organs. In such a period, the fetus is highly vulnerable to the stressors such as malnutrition.
The examples of trace element closely associated with the brain development are zinc, iron, and copper, which can damage the brain and the central nervous system development if the amount is insufficient or excessive.
The conditions such as asthma or allergies are also closely associated with the trace element deficiency. Selenium is one of the essential trace elements that is highly required in maintaining the immunity condition. In asthma, selenium plays an important role in modulating the immune system and preventing the responses to the allergens. Atopic dermatitis is also a common disease caused by the imbalance of trace elements iron, zinc, magnesium, and copper.
The trace element imbalance and heavy metal exposure are considered to assess the development of the children with autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The deterioration in autistic children is so much driven by the imbalance of minerals such as zinc and magnesium, and also the presence of heavy metals such as magnesium, aluminum, cadmium, lead, arsenic, and mercury. These conditions disrupt the gene modulation mechanism, particularly the genes dealing with neurological development, indicating the declining condition of the children with autism or ADHD.
Why assessing the nutritional status is important
Based on the recommendation of the Indonesian Pediatric Society, the nutritional status assessment shall take into account some aspects such as diet, eating habit, diet tolerance, and the clinical conditions that affect the diet.
Thus, it is important to clinically assess the nutritional status and the exposure to heavy metals in order to determine whether motoric value disorders from the diet occur in order to have an accurate nutritional recommendation.
The tests to examine the nutritional status and the heavy metal exposure are available in panels, so that the doctors are facilitated to give some advice on the intake of additional nutrition and the prevention of heavy metals. The nutrition and heavy metal panels include Zinc (Zn), Selenium (Se), Mangan (Mn), Copper (Cu), Iron (Fe), Cobalt (Co), Vanadium (V), Chromium (Cr), Molybdenum (Mo), Lead (Pb), and Mercury (Hg).