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Super-Nutrients for Kids ~ [Issue 1199-1]  Wellness Weekly
 Nov 03, 1999 09:27 PST 

More and more, scientists see four "super-nutrients" - vitamin A,
omega-3 fatty acids, folic acid and iron - as the nutritional
foundation for children's good health. According to Dr. Robert
Squires Jr., Associate Professor at the University of Texas
Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, parents should make an effort
to make foods containing these nutrients appetizing for children to
eat. Of course, supplementing with them can be of help, too. (Be
careful not to over-supplement with iron.)

Many common diseases are associated with a lack of one or more of
these essential nutrients. Vitamin A deficiency has been linked to
measles deaths. Omega-3 deficiency has been blamed for decreased
visual acuity. Folic-acid deficiency during pregnancy can cause
neural-tube (brain and spinal) defects and iron deficiency (which can
be a factor without the child's exhibiting signs of anemia) is
associated with a loss of developmental skills.

Decades ago, cod liver oil was one of those "elixirs of life" that no
young children were allowed to go without. However unappetizing, the
oil is rich in vitamin A, which plays a very important role in
maintaining mucous membranes, supporting the immune system, and
protecting the body against infection.

Omega-3 fatty acids are prevalent in all kinds of fish and green
vegetables. A metabolite of omega-3 fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid
(DHA), is an important component in the brain and in retinal
lipoproteins. Infants on formulas deficient in omega-3 fatty acids
have decreased visual abilities, one reason more physicians are now
recommending breast feeding, since human breast milk is a great source of DHA.

Several scientific studies have shown that folic acid is a
significant factor in the prevention of birth defects such as spina
bifida. Supplementing with folic acid to prevent this condition (in
which a segment of the spinal nerve cord grows outside the spinal
column) is a good example of just how early parents (especially
mothers) need to begin thinking of assuring good nutrition for their children.
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