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Physical and mental health for young children
Physical and mental health for young children

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6.2 Dietary deficiency in high-income countries

There are many reasons why children’s diets can be insufficient for their health needs in high-income countries, such as England. The following section explores some common reasons.

Vitamin D deficiency

Babies and children can experience the effects of dietary insufficiency wherever they live in the world, and not just because of living in poverty. Vitamin D is provided from sunlight and from certain foods. Its function in absorbing calcium means that it plays a vital role in the development of healthy bones. Insufficient levels of Vitamin D can cause rickets. Rickets leads to poor skeletal development and deformities which, if not corrected, are irreversible and lead to lifelong problems. Children living in countries where there are fewer days where the sun shines, or those who have limited access to the outdoors are more prone to developing rickets. The NHS in England recommends that babies and children should have a daily supplement throughout the year (NHS, 2020).


Red blood cells carry oxygen around the body, and red blood cells are produced by foods containing iron, such as red meat. Anaemia can cause a range of symptoms which include tiredness and shortness of breath (NICE, 2021). A common cause of anaemia in young children is late weaning or a diet that is deficient in iron-rich foods.

Underweight children

One reason for children being underweight can be from neglect. Children who aren’t provided with a healthy diet at regular intervals may not receive the nutrients that are necessary for them to thrive. A diet that contains high levels of wholegrain foods or carbonated drinks may make a child feel full which can lead to them not eating enough calories. In addition to this, children who have an eating disorder may be underweight. Other causes of children being underweight can include an underlying health condition.