The value of nutrition in children, especially infants, should not be taken lightly as malnourishment could expose them to infectious diseases. With this caution, pediatricians urged that supplements of vitamins and Zinc should be given to all infants at the risk of deficiency.
Addressing a session on Role of Nutrients in Prevention of Infectious Disease held at a hotel on Saturday, Prof. Sanja Kolacek, an expert on child nutrition and pediatric gastroenterology in the Children’s Hospital Zagreb, Croatia, said that deficiency of vitamins could affect the immune system.
According to her, breastfeeding and supplements of vitamins could play a pivotal role in helping malnourished infants.
“The breastfed infants have an improved immune development and lower rate of acute gastro and respiratory tract infections,” said Prof. Kolacek. “Addition of biologically active nutrients to the infant formula may also improve immune response and resistance to infection.”
Consultant child specialist, Dr M Nand Lal, while sharing a general perception said that mothers in Pakistan, especially in rural areas, were advised to not use food supplements when their children were sick. “They are advised not to continue food during diarrhoea and pneumonia.” When Dr Lal asked Prof. Kolacek if such instructions were appropriate, she replied that the same was practiced in her country. “Scientifically, however, feeding an infant when ill not only helps to overcome the sickness but also stops weight loss,” she said. Referring to the 2011 health survey of the government of Pakistan, Prof. Kolacek rated it as one of the best health surveys in the world. “We need more of such surveys to understand why children fall prey to infections so rapidly and what role vitamins play during their recoveries.”
Prof. Kolacek revealed that doctors in several countries, including European countries, were not taught to observe whether an infant was malnourished.
“Should supplements be given with the food or separately?” asked a participant, Dr Nida. Prof. Kolacek replied that the nutrients didn’t work in isolation and it is better to add supplements with food. She also advised that combination of food with multi-micronutrients works better as compared to a single nutrient.
The scientific symposium, organised by Abbott Pakistan, was attended by professors, child specialists, graduates and undergraduates from different medical colleges and hospitals.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 25th, 2013.