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There are two fundamentally different kinds of food needs- energy requirements & structural requirements. The body requires energy for many activities such as beating of the heart, breathing, digestion of the food & voluntary muscular activity. Energy is also needed for growth. This energy requirement expressed in calories is obtained chiefly from carbohydrates & fats.

1. Energy Requirements: The amount of energy needed in terms of calories varies from individual to individual & is dependant upon a number of variables, none of which can be considered independently but rather are part of a constellation. It differs with size. A large child requires more energy producing foods than a small child. It differs with the rate of activity of the body processes while at rest, i.e. with a basal metabolic rate. The faster the rate of basal metabolism, meaning the faster the heart beat, respiration etc. The greater the number of calories used in a given time & conversely, the lower the rate, the lower the number of calories needed.
The energy requirement differs too with the amount of voluntary activity. A very active child requires more calories per day than a quiet one. The same child will need more calories during a day of vigorous activities than during one of quiet activities.
Energy requirements differ also in accordance with the efficiency of the body in using foods. Some bodies are more economical in the use of foods than others. In some cases food is more easily digested & absorbed than in others. In all individuals some food value is lost in bowel elimination, but the amount varies considerably from child to child. Finally, the need for calories depends on the rate of growth. The fast growing child will need more calories than the slow growing child. During the periods of his life when the impetus to grow is more intense, infancy & early adolescence, the amount of energy required for growth will be greatest.
In proportion to their weight, children’s food needs are greater than those of adults because of children’s relatively greater basal metabolism, their tremendous activity & their growth. Boys generally catch up with their fathers in need for calories at 13 years & exceed them by 16 percent at 18. By 10 years of age girls already exceed their mothers by 11 % & at 13 by 16 % in their energy needs.

2. Structural Requirements: the structural requirement covers the need for materials which go to make up tissues & to regulate the functions of those tissues. The necessary food elements or nutrients are 40 in number. They include amino acids from proteins, at least one digestive product of carbohydrates (glucose), some unsaturated fatty acids or acids (derived from the digestion of fats), minerals & vitamins. The body needs all these in adequate amounts for the building & repair of its tissues & for these tissue’s daily activities. Since all foods do not contain all of these nutrients, a balanced diet of “protective” foods, i.e. foods rich in the essential nutrients, is necessary.

3. Importance of Minerals: Minerals serve as constituents of tissues. Calcium & Phosphorus are responsible for the rigidity of the bones & teeth. The softer bones of children contain less minerals than the firmer bones of adults. The process of hardening called ossification demands Calcium & Phosphorus in generous quantities. An inadequate amount of these minerals may result in poor teeth & poorly formed bones. Poor teeth are a barrier to good health & attractiveness. Poorly formed bones detract from the attractiveness of an individual & limit his physical efficiency.
Minerals serve as regulators of body process. The part played by minerals in the beating of the heart & in the activity of the nerves has been mentioned. For coagulation of the blood the body needs calcium in the blood. Phosphorus takes part in the chain of events in muscle activity & in the transfer of energy. The digestive juices such as salivary, gastric & intestinal juices, depend upon minerals for their acidity or alkalinity. Minerals regulate the flow of liquids by means of which substances are absorbed, passed to and from body cells & excreted through kidneys or intestines.

4. Importance of Vitamins: The vitamins, as regulators of body processes, have a vital role to play in keeping children well & furthering their development. The vitamins now recognized as contributing to the health & growth of children are Vitamin A, D ,C, K, Thiamine, Riboflavin, Niacin, B-6, Folic acid & B-12. Vitamin K aids in the formation of prothrombin, which is associated with the mechanism of blood clotting.

VITAMIN –A : is a necessary part of the visual process & thus is associated with the ability to see in dim light. Vit-A is also necessary for maintaining the health of epithelial tissue, namely, the tissue of skin, covering of the eye, the lining of respiratory, alimentary & genitourinary tracts. Deficiency of Vit –A structurally impairs “the body’s first line of defense”. In addition it is necessary for the orderly development of bones & teeth. It is also essential for the formation of enamel of teeth.
Source of Vitamin A - Milk, Butter, Liver, Fish Liver Oils and Egg Yolk.

VITAMIN –D : IS essential for the normal growth & mineralization of the bones & the teeth. The body cannot make proper use of the Calcium & Phosphorus supplied by food unless Vit- D is present.
Source of Vitamin D - Fish Liver Oil, Milk, Butter, and Yeast.

Thiamine (Vit- B 1) : Is one of the vitamins in the B-Complex. Thiamine is essential for the maintenance & normal function of the nervous system. It has been found that Thiamine is necessary to carry carbohydrate metabolism through an essential step.
Source - Cereals, Grains, Beans, Nuts, Pork and Duck.

RIBOFLAVIN (Vit-B 2) : Plays an important role in the internal environments in which the body cells live, where it is involved in the life processes of active cells. Riboflavin is essential to growth & to normal nutrition at all ages. A deficiency produces characteristic changes in the lips, tongue & skin.
Source - Dairy products, offal and leafy vegetable.

NIACIN: Is involved in the life processes of the cells. It prevents Pellagra, with its characteristic skin lesions, digestive & nervous disturbances, provided all other essentials are included in the diet.
Source - Found in many food stuff including plant, meat, (particularly Offal).

VITAMIN –B 6 : Is a member of the enzyme system in certain metabolic processes, including those of neural tissue. Arrested growth & disturbances in functioning of the nervous system have been noted to follow deprivation of B 6 in infancy. Also alteration in tryptophan metabolism in pregnancy has been relieved by administration of B 6 .
Sources - Widely found in animal and plant food stuff.

FOLIC ACID : Has been found to play an important part in the body’s blood forming activities. It is effective in the treatment of certain types of anaemia.
Sources - Found in green vegetables, spinach and Broccoli.

VITAMIN –B 12 (Cyanocobalmine ) : Plays an essential metabolic role & is essential for the prevention or treatment of pernicious anaemia, a disturbance of red blood cell formation.
Sources - It is found in Meat, Fish, eggs and milk but not in plant. It's also found in papayas, cantaloupes, strawberries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, asparagus and parsley.

VITAMIN C : Is essential to the health of intercellular material which acts as cementing substance in holding the cells of a tissue in their precise positions.
Sources – Lemon, orange, amla, potatoes.

5. Functions of Proteins : Proteins make up a part of all body cells & participate in nearly all life processes; therefore, they are necessary for growth. Through digestion they are broken down into amino acids which are used by the body in building its tissues; bones, muscle, nerves, skin, blood etc. Eight of these amino acids cannot be manufactured in the body & so must be supplied in the diet. Deficiencies in particular amino acid may lead to specific types of injury e.g. when Argimine is deficient there is a decrease in the number of sperms & their motility.
Proteins are necessary for the manufacture of enzymes used in the hormones of the endocrine glands, such as thyroxin of the thyroid gland, epinephrine of the adrenals & insulin of the pancreas. They function in regulating the flow of fluid in & out of cells.

6. Functions of carbohydrates & fats : carbohydrates & fats as the chief sources of energy, are necessary for growth, & they furnish energy for the growth process. Carbohydrates & fats also furnish the body with adipose tissue, which serves as a protection against the loss of heat, act as a cushion to the abdominal organs & is a potential source of body energy. Certain fats perform another important function i.e. they are carriers of vitamin A & D. Glucose, a digestive product of carbohydrates is a constant constituent of the blood.

7. Role of Water: The human being lives in water, even though it is not an aquatic species. Water is a part of every tissue in the body, even of the proverbially dry bone. In children the percentage of water in tissues is higher than in adulthood. Matured bone contains nearly half its weight in water. About 75% of muscle & 80% of the grey matter of the brain are water. No cell can carry on its activities when it is absolutely dry & most cells must be constantly bathed with fluid in order to do their work. These cells have their food brought to them & their waste products removed by the water route, the blood. Many of these waste products are eliminated through the urine. Water serves as a regulator of body temperature. Evaporation from the skin, perspiration, provides one of the most important methods of removing surplus heat from the body. Water protects internal organs. The central nervous system is bathed by the cerebrospinal fluid. Fluid also lubricates joints, thereby making movements at joints easy. Water is therefore tremendously important in life. Rubner estimated that a man could lose most of his stores of glycogen & of fat & even half of his protein without serious danger to life, but a loss of 10% of body water is serious & a loss of 20% is scarcely to be endured.

Dr. Nahida M.Mulla.M.D.
Vice Principal,
Professor of Repertory & PG Guide,
HOD Repertory.
HOD Paediatric OPD,
A M.Shaikh Homoeopathic Medical College, Hospital & PG Research Centre, Nehru Nagar, BELGAUM (Karnataka)

Mobile : 09448814660

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