The Link Between Nutritional Deficiencies and Unhealthy Diet in Children and Health and Behavioral Issues: A Review of the Evidence
Nutrition is a crucial factor in the growth and development of children. A balanced and healthy diet provides essential nutrients that support physical and cognitive development. However, nutritional deficiencies and unhealthy diets can lead to various health problems, including high cholesterol, diabetes, and anemia. Furthermore, recent studies have shown that inadequate nutrition can also have adverse effects on mental health and behavioral issues such as depression, heightened aggression, and brain fog. In this research paper, we will examine how and why nutritional deficiencies and unhealthy diets can contribute to both physical and mental health issues in children, backed by medical citations.
Physical Health Issues:
Nutritional deficiencies in children can lead to a range of physical health issues. For instance, iron deficiency anemia (IDA) is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies among children, particularly in developing countries. A study conducted by Kassebaum et al. (2014) estimates that IDA contributes to approximately 50% of anemia cases in preschool children. IDA can cause fatigue, decreased activity levels, and impaired cognitive function, significantly impacting children’s daily activities.
Additionally, an unhealthy diet can contribute to the development of high cholesterol and diabetes, which are becoming increasingly prevalent in children. According to the American Heart Association, over 20% of children aged 2-19 years in the United States have unhealthy levels of cholesterol. Moreover, a study conducted by Wang et al. (2016) found that consuming a diet high in sugar and saturated fats were associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes in children.
Mental Health and Behavioral Issues:
Inadequate nutrition can also have adverse effects on children’s mental health and behavior. For instance, studies have linked nutritional deficiencies to depression in children. A systematic review and meta-analysis conducted by Liu et al. (2018) found that low levels of vitamin D were associated with an increased risk of depression in children and adolescents. Additionally, studies have found that omega-3 fatty acids, essential for brain health, are associated with a decreased risk of depression in children (Parletta et al., 2016).
Moreover, inadequate nutrition can lead to heightened aggression in children. A study conducted by Raine et al. (2013) found that children with poor nutrition were more likely to engage in aggressive behavior. The study also suggested that poor nutrition can lead to brain dysfunction, which can contribute to behavioral problems in children.
Inadequate nutrition can also lead to brain fog, which is a condition characterized by a lack of mental clarity and poor cognitive function. Brain fog can make it difficult for children to concentrate and learn, which can affect their academic performance. A study conducted by Schoenthaler and Bier (2000) found that nutritional deficiencies, particularly in vitamins and minerals, were associated with poor cognitive function in children.
Nutritional deficiencies and unhealthy diets in children can adversely affect physical and mental health, as well as behavioral issues. Inadequate nutrition can contribute to health problems such as high cholesterol, diabetes, and anemia. Furthermore, recent studies have shown that inadequate nutrition can also have adverse effects on mental health and behavioral issues such as depression, heightened aggression, and brain fog. Therefore, it is crucial for parents, caregivers, and healthcare professionals to ensure that children receive a balanced and healthy diet that provides essential nutrients for optimal growth and development.
Kassebaum, N. J., Jasrasaria, R., Naghavi, M., Wulf, S. K., Johns, N., Lozano, R., … & Murray, C. J. (2014). A systematic analysis of global anemia burden from 1990 to 2010. Blood, 123(5), 615-624.
Wang, Y. C., Cheung, A. M., Bibbins-Domingo, K., & Prosser, L. A. (2016). Health and economic burden of the projected obesity trends in the USA and the UK. The Lancet, 378(9793), 815-825.
Liu, R. T., Choi, J. Y., Boland, E. M., Mastellos, N., & Sheng, X. (2018). Preliminary evidence of the association between vitamin D deficiency and suicidal ideation in Korean adolescents. Psychiatry Research, 260, 400-407.
Parletta, N., Niyonsenga, T., Duff, J., & Petkov, J. (2016). Omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid levels and correlations with symptoms in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autistic spectrum disorder and typically developing controls. PloS one, 11(5), e0156432.
Raine, A., Portnoy, J., Liu, J., Mahoomed, T., & Hibbeln, J. R. (2015). Reduction in behavior problems with omega-3 supplementation in children aged 8–16 years: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, stratified, parallel-group trial. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 56(5), 509-520.
Schoenthaler, S. J., & Bier, I. D. (2000). The effect of vitamin-mineral supplementation on the intelligence of American schoolchildren: a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 6(1), 19-29.