Importance of Proteins and Amino Acids in Child Growth

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Topic(s): Nutrition Health & Wellness Obesity Nutrition & Disease Management

Protein and Amino Acid Requirements in Infants and Young Children

Undernutrition is a common cause of more than a third of all deaths in children under 5 years of age. A core group of ten interventions inclusive of infant and young child nutrition could save lives of a million children under 5 years of age, at a 90% coverage level. Acute and chronic infections in children are likely to affect their growth rates, increase their protein and amino acid requirements, and have long-term implications such as decreased productivity and functional deficits. Minimum protein requirements can be altered by effectiveness of protein utilization (or net protein utilization), intake of other nutrients, environmental influences such as infection and lifestyle changes. The nitrogen equilibrium is affected by the interactions between protein needs and energy deficit.

According to research findings, incorporating high-quality protein-rich foods into the diets of young school children has a positive impact on their health. High-quality protein sources such as milk compared to supplementary, complementary, and rehabilitation food products are effective for growth. Amino acids such as arginine and lysine have been associated with the release of growth hormone in young children via the somatotropic axis. Furthermore, high intakes of these amino acids are associated inversely with fat mass index in prepubertal lean girls. Protein intake in infancy is positively associated with height and weight during childhood. Dietary restriction of essential amino acids including lysine, leucine, threonine, and methionine affects the production of plasma insulin-like growth factor.

Further investigations are required to study these associations more closely and comprehend the role of proteins and amino acids in the context of quality rather than quantity in infants and young children.

News source - Uauy R, Kurpad A, Tano-Debrah K, et al. Role of Protein and Amino Acids in Infant and Young Child Nutrition: Protein and Amino Acid Needs and Relationship with Child Growth. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2015; 61 Suppl: S192–4.