Importance of Protein Intake in Children – Are Milk Supplements Good?

Importance of Protein Intake in Children - Are Milk Supplements Good?

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Ask any parent what they wish for their children, and the most common answer you’ll get is, “We want them to be healthy and fit.” Parents are always working hard to provide the best of everything to their children. Generally, good parenting is aimed at imparting good education, providing good nutrition and taking care of the overall well-being of children. However, in growing years, the main attention is on the child’s growth and physical development.

Good nutrition and optimal growth are the foundation of good health. Nutrition not only affects growth but also immunity, intelligence, longevity, allergy, long-term health and recovery from sickness. In spite of parents’ desire to provide good nutrition, many times it doesn’t happen and children are undernourished or overnourished. The reason for this is lack of knowledge about optimal nutrition. Now, let us understand what optimal nutrition is and how it can be given.

Food has different components like carbohydrates, proteins, fats, iron, vitamins and calcium which are required by our body. All these should be consumed in the right proportions for good health. Inclusion of carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and calcium in children’s daily diet is relatively easy. Proteins, iron and vitamin deficiency are commonly seen in children. Often, parents don’t know the right source and amount of these nutrients needed at various ages. Let us discuss a few aspects of proteins.

What Are Proteins and Why Are They Important for Children?

Proteins are the building blocks of the body and are needed by the muscles and all body organs. Most of the hormones and enzymes in the body are proteins. They help to build and repair lean body tissue. Growing children need proteins to assist in the development of new lean muscle tissue. If children are active and in sports, body tissue gets broken during the activities. It is proteins that act as a healing agent and repair lean body tissue. Proteins also play an important role in the working and development of the immune system.

What Are the Different Categories of Proteins?

Based on the content and digestibility, proteins are categorised into classes on a score called Protein Digestibility –Corrected Amino acid Score (PDCAAS). This score was adopted by the US FDA (1993) to evaluate protein quality. A score of 1 (maximum score) indicates that the food provides 100 % of the essential amino acids per unit of the product. Cow milk protein, casein, whey and eggs have a score of 1 (indicating higher quality) whereas vegetable sources have a score varying from 0.7-0.8. It implies, therefore, that vegetarians would benefit by consuming milk protein for getting 100 % essential amino acid intake.

What Are the Sources of Proteins?

Even though proteins are present in various foods, it is pulses, sprouts, soy, milk, eggs and meat which are considered good sources of protein.

What is the Daily Protein Requirement for Children?

A growing child’s protein requirement is 1 gram per kg. So, a child weighing 12 kg would need 12 gms of proteins a day. An adult would need approximately 50-60 gms proteins in a day. Demands increase with pregnancy, breastfeeding, strenuous physical activity, sickness, etc.
Approximately, 15-20% of the food we eat should be protein.

Should We Use Milk Supplements? Which Is the Right One?

Plain milk is one of the easiest ways to provide good proteins to children and the addition of an appropriate nutritional supplement may fortify nutrition. It is recommended to give 400 ml (2 glasses) of milk on a daily basis. Unfortunately, many children dislike milk and a daily battle ensues between mothers and children. Addition of a milk supplement may enhance the acceptance and taste, apart from the nutritional benefit it provides.  Parents thus flavour milk by adding milk supplements which are available in the market.

Both parents and children believe the advertisements which claim that regular consumption will make kids taller, stronger, energetic, intelligent and that the nutrition of children is incomplete without these products. Such claims may not be always true. Parents buy milk supplements without reading the ingredients label in detail. It is highly recommended to read the labels before buying any product and become aware of the type and quantity of nutrients provided per serving. Choose a supplement that provides you with important nutrients like proteins, phosphorus, different vitamins, potassium, iron, DHA, etc. in adequate quantities. We are always searching and analysing good milk additives in the market for the content, taste and price. One product that recently caught our attention is V-Nourish.

V-Nourish seems to be a promising and different product which provides all these important nutrients and other ingredients like prebiotics, probiotics, aloe vera and ashwagandha herb. This particular herb is very beneficial as it helps in sharpening memory, improves sleep, fights infection and acts as an immunity booster. The protein used in the product is 100% milk protein concentrate which is well absorbed and nutritionally good (PDCAAS 1.0). V-Nourish provides the right nutrients which are helpful for brain development, growth, immunity, stamina and good digestion as well. The ingredients and their benefits are mentioned clearly on the back label making things clearer for the consumer. V-Nourish is available in different flavours like Strawberry, Cocoa, Kesar Pista and Badaam. As the daily recommended requirement for milk is 400 ml (2 glasses) a day, using 20 gm of this product per serving is recommended for nutrition supplementation.

It is essential to plan your child’s daily meals on the principles of a balanced diet as it fulfils all the nutritional needs of the body. Nutrition in childhood has an impact on long-term health. Ensure that your child gets all nutrients from an early age and does not develop any deficiencies. Due to the demands of growth and development, getting adequate protein is particularly important during infancy, childhood, and adolescence. Meet all their nutritional needs by providing natural foods and giving their life a healthy start.

About the authors

This article is co-authored by Dr. Umesh Vaidya and Mrs. Krisha Krishnani. Dr. Umesh Vaidya has completed his postgraduate education from B.J. Medical College & KEM Hospital, Pune. He has acquired specialized training in Neonatology at the University of Illinois, Chicago and Westmead Hospital, Sydney. Dr. Vaidya is now the Chief Neonatologist at KEM Hospital, Pune and the Regional Medical Director (West) of Cloudnine Hospitals, Pune. Krisha Krishnani has completed her Bachelor’s Degree from Delhi University. Together, they have authored two books ‘Bringing Up Preterm Babies- A Guide for Parents’ and ‘Good Food for Kids – A Scientific Guide to Your Child’s Nutrition’ .

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