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8 May 2006 | Printer friendly

WHO guidelines on nutrition of young children

In 2000, the World Health Organisation (WHO) published the book “Feeding and nutrition of infants and young children”, which will allow policy-makers and national experts to develop or update their current national nutrition and feeding recommendations. The guidelines included, if implemented, will not only have a positive impact on the health, growth and development of young children, but also strengthen their chances of growing up to be healthy adults.

Optimum nutrition and good feeding of infants and young children determine their health, growth and development. Good feeding practices will prevent malnutrition and early growth retardation, which is still common in some parts of the WHO European region. Poorly feed children have greater rates and severity of infections, and they are at risk of dying prematurely. Infant nutrition also has long-term health consequences for later life. Furthermore, micronutrient deficiencies, especially of iron and iodine, are associated with delayed motor development and impaired cognitive function.

The transition from an exclusively milk diet to one that includes an increasingly variety of foods is a particularly vulnerable time. Poor nutrition and feeding practices during this critical period may increase the risk of interrupted growth and nutritional deficiencies. Despite this, limited attention has been paid to the need for guidelines based on scientific evidence. This publication contains the scientific rationale for the development of national nutrition and feeding recommendations from birth to the age of three years.


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