Micronutrients and malnutrition: The miracle of birth - pregnancy, breastfeeding, infant and young child feeding

By Heruvim78 | The longevity gene | 16 Jan 2021


This is a complicated subject, and i will try to keep it short and clear, if it is possible. But there are many important things to underline, so, let's get it started.

During pregnancy the demand for micronutrients increases with 20-50%, but the energy requirements only with 15%. So, you do not need more food, you need high quality food. If nutrients are already lower than usual, diet needs to be supplemented. Low iodine leads to cretinism (dwarfism, low IQ and deafness). Low vitamin B complex leads to premature death, and low Iron leads to underweight (and you need to know that babies weighting less than 2.5kg - 5.5 pounds for my American friends - have lower survival chances and are more vulnerable to infections and chronic diseases). After birth breast milk is the best choice for nutrition for the next six months. It should be, as it contains enzymes and substances promoting digestion, immune function and nutrient uptake. Right after birth, the first breastmilk is called colostrum (very rich in vitamin A), and it is also containing lactoferrin, a protein helping with the iron uptake. If breast milk is not available, infant formula is also a good choice. Animal milk is the last on the list, as it is not providing the optimal composition for the baby, and can also affect the kidney functions. The risks associated with the micronutrients deficiency are:

  • Iron - severe anaemia is a risk factor for maternal and child mortality, can lead to premature birth and low birth weight. 
  • Vitamin A - lack of it increases the mortality risks for pregnant and lactating women, infants and babies, due to infections. Night blindness can appear.
  • Iodine - lack of it leads to risk of perinatal mortality, low birth weight and congenital anomalies. The fetus is at risk of developing a neurological syndrome, neurological impairment and mental deficiency. Even mild to moderate iodine deficiency can affect the intellectual development of the child.
  • Zinc - deficiency is rare, can lead to fetal malformations, embryonic and fetal death, fetal growth issues and birth complications. It is very important to have enough zinc provided by food during lactation. 

A bit about infant and young child feeding (0-24 months). First 24 hours are critical for creating the microbiota, health and development. We can have few possible versions: 

  • exclusive breast feeding (only breast milk)
  • predominant feeding (breast milk mainly, but also water or juice)
  • complementary feeding

What are the key indicators for optimal feeding?

  • early initiation of breastfeeding (put to breast in less than one hour after birth
  • exclusive breastfeeding (0-5 months)
  • continued breastfeeding (up to 12-15 months)
  • timely introduction of solid, semi-solid and soft foods (months 6-8)
  • minimum dietary diversity after month 8 (4+ food groups in one day, i mean 1- grain and roots, 2 - legumes and nuts, 3 - dairy, 4 - meat, 5 - eggs, 6 - vitamin A rich fruit and veg, 7 - other fruits and veg)
  • minimum meal daily frequency ( 2 meals and breastfeeding for 6-8 months, 3 meals and breastfeeding for 9-23 months, 4 meals not breastfeeding for 6-23 months)
  • minimum acceptable diet is important
  • consumption of iron rich and iron fortified foods if needed.

These are only some hints to help, always check with your doctor if needed. Next post will be about the connection between infection and malnutrition.

Yours truly,

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The longevity gene
The longevity gene

And when i say longevity i mean a bigger health span, as opposed to the well known life span. It is not enough to live longer, if you are not healthy, so do not forget what our immortal James Dean said: 'It is important to die young, but as late as possible!'. I will explore many unorthodox ways, ranging from gut microbiota manipulation to ancient Ayurveda ritual, trying to combine them in an ample resource, from which you can get and apply whatever is better for you at the present moment.

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