Updated: Sep 23
Micronutrients are vital and are required in small amounts by the body to maintain
normal physiological functions. For children especially, they play crucial roles in metabolism, growth, and development, and are obtained through a balanced and diverse diet.
However, many children may be at risk of developing micronutrient deficiencies due to a lack of diversity in their diet or malabsorption. This is often the case in children with Autism as they can typically struggle with gastrointestinal problems, as well as issues with textures associated with certain foods. Both of these can lead to deficiencies in children with Autism.
In this blog post, we will be discussing some of the most common micronutrient deficiencies in kids and how you as a parent or a practitioner can help correct the deficiency.
Iron Deficiency Anemia
Iron deficiency anemia is a common micronutrient deficiency in children, especially in toddlers and adolescent girls. Iron is an essential component of hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to body tissues. A deficiency in iron can result in anemia, which can cause fatigue, weakness, and impaired cognitive function.
To remedy iron deficiency anemia, it is important to increase iron intake through dietary sources
or supplementation. Iron-rich foods include red meat, poultry, fish, beans, tofu, spinach, and
fortified cereals. Iron absorption can be enhanced by consuming vitamin C-rich foods such as
oranges, tomatoes, and bell peppers, along with iron-containing meals. In cases of severe
anemia, iron supplementation may be required under the guidance of your physician.
Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D is essential for bone health, as it helps the body absorb calcium and phosphorus. A deficiency in vitamin D can result in rickets, a condition that causes softening and weakening of bones in children. Children who are exclusively breastfed or have limited sun exposure are at a higher risk of developing vitamin D deficiency.
It is extremely common for your child to take a supplement in order to correct vitamin D
deficiency. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants receive 400
international units (IU) of vitamin D daily, while children and adolescents receive 600-1000 IU
daily depending on their age and sex.
Iodine is essential for the production of thyroid hormones, which regulate metabolism and
growth in both children and adults. A deficiency in iodine can result in goiters, impaired growth and development, and impaired cognitive function as well.
To remedy iodine deficiency, it is important to increase intake through dietary sources or to
speak with your provider. Iodine-rich foods include seafood, seaweed, dairy products, and
iodized salt. Iodized salt can be hidden in a lot of children’s favorite foods, so attempting to add it in a hidden format may be a way to correct this deficiency!
Vitamin A Deficiency
Vitamin A is an essential vitamin for vision, immune function, and skin health in children. A
deficiency in vitamin A can cause night blindness, impaired immune function, and skin changes. A child might be at higher risk for developing vitamin A deficiency if they do not have regular access to a diverse diet.
It is important to increase a child’s vitamin A intake through either dietary sources or supplementation. Vitamin A-rich foods include liver, fish, dairy products, eggs, and fortified cereals. If your child is struggling with texture issues, try blending the food or making it into fun shapes, this may help with them getting it down. If a food first approach is not helping correct this deficiency, it is important to consult with your RD or physician on the next steps or supplementation.
Zinc is essential for many bodily processes in children. A deficiency in zinc can result in
impaired growth and development, decreased overall immune function, and delayed wound
healing. Children who consume plant-based diets or those who do not consume a diet full of
diverse foods are at a high risk of developing zinc deficiency.
Zinc-rich typical foods include meat, shellfish, nuts, and seeds.There are also many zinc fortified cereals that may be an easy avenue for your child to increase their zinc intake. If needed, zinc supplementation can be added to your child’s regime as long as you have the guidance of an RD and pediatrician.
Outside of the 5 micronutrients listed here, there are still many other micronutrients that your
child could become deficient in. If you suspect your child may be deficient in an essential
vitamin or mineral, remember to contact your provider so they can run the appropriate tests and help your child reach the correct nutrient levels! Micronutrients help the body function optimally, while also aiding in development in your little kiddo! Diversifying the diet is the best way to prevent micronutrient deficiencies, but when needed- supplementation can be a great option.