New research shows Kiwi mums confused about children’s dietary needs

Steak wraps. Photo B+LNZ Inc

New research shows a disparity between how much dietary iron Kiwi mums believe their children need and what they are actually getting.

In a recent survey conducted by Nielsen, 61 percent of Kiwi mums believe their children get enough iron in their diet, with only 16 percent disagreeing.

However, research shows that, in New Zealand, 80 percent of toddlers do not receive the recommended daily intake of iron, 14 percent of children under the age of two are iron deficient and over one-third of teenage girls don’t achieve their daily iron requirements.

Dr Pamela Von Hurst from Massey University School of Food and Nutrition says children and adolescents have an increased risk of iron deficiency.

“Childhood is a crucial time for optimal development and iron deficiency at this life stage can have long term effects,” says Dr Von Hurst.

Encouragingly when surveyed, most could identify various side effects of iron deficiency, however, only eight percent could correctly identify all signs of iron deficiency in a child.

If a child is low in iron or iron-deficient they may show signs such as tiredness, appearing pale, irritable or grumpy, or struggle to gain weight.

The early stages of life are incredibly important in terms of the correct nutrient intake, with iron being crucial for brain development in babies and toddlers; at seven months a baby needs more iron than her dad.

Women also need to have a heightened awareness around iron intake during pregnancy requiring greater amounts of iron each day because of increased blood volume and the nutritional requirements of the growing baby.

Mothers and women are also a group most at risk of iron deficiency with one in 14 women in New Zealand low in iron. The Neilsen survey showed 20 percent of women do not think they get enough iron in their diets.

For women particularly, the symptoms of low iron are similar to those which are often attributed to a busy lifestyle meaning women are not necessarily aware they are at risk.

Not only an issue in New Zealand, iron deficiency is recognised by the World Health Organisation as the most common and widespread nutritional disorder in the world.

It is with this in mind, a New Zealand initiated campaign, World Iron Awareness Week, which started on Monday, to raise awareness of the prevalence, symptoms of iron deficiency and what can be done to increase levels.

Massey University will be facilitating a series of events throughout World Iron Awareness Week for health professionals and the public across three campuses; Auckland, Palmerston North and Wellington.

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