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Public Health Nutr. 2001 Feb;4(1A):91-9.

Vitamin and mineral nutrition for the health and development of the children of Europe.

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Center for International Child Health, Institute of Child Health, London, UK.


Most European countries are now affected by demographic transition and changing epidemiology of disease; the nutrition of children is increasingly recognised as crucial for present and future health. Adequate dietary intake and nutritional status among children are important for their own growth, development and function but there is now increasing evidence that childhood nutrition also influences adult health. Intrauterine nutrition influences adult morbidity and mortality, but the childhood diet and nutritional status modify the increased risk of being born small. Thus, childhood diet needs to be taken more seriously in order to improve a nation's health as well as producing bright, active children. A key factor is the recognition that nutritional interventions at different stages of the life cycle are necessary if childhood nutrition is to improve. The mosaic pattern of the geography and social structure of communities in Europe produces 'poverty' and 'consumer' related nutrition patterns - often side by side. At one extreme, there is an urgent need to prevent obesity; while at the other extreme serious attention is required towards the prevention of deficiency disorders, mostly related to poverty and social exclusion. Few European governments take childhood nutrition at all seriously. This paper reviews a number of micronutrient issues and makes the case for the development of evidence-based policies and programmes for improving the nutrition of children in Europe.

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