Feed Their Potential with the Right Nutrition
By Emmanuela Awoh
The Power of ONE. This is what comes to mind when I think of children and this majorly preoccupies my thoughts on children’s day. The intrinsic power that lies in the ability of one child to transform the world, change the lot of families forever, redirect nations aright and champion causes that improves the lot of every individual, for generations to come
Growing up in the heart of Oshodi gave me the opportunity to see different families, large and small, where female children drop out of school, male children become touts, parents struggle year on year and resort to their fate. Most times, the cycle of hardship tend to continue as a result. Such that on days when I choose to drive through my root, the status quo remains, sadly.
Guess what? Every now and then, a shining light, brighter than the brightest star, arises .ONE child from several families, who fights hard to break free from the norm. ONE child who raises the standard and gives other children a new picture of success, who gives HOPE and a chance at cleansing the depth of damage done by years of ignorance.
Does this hold true for a significant part of our dear nation? Absolutely!
According to the World Bank collection of development indicators (2014), 98million Nigerians live in Urban areas and a whooping 50.2% of this population live in slums! I trust you get the picture now
Back to my tale of ONE child. I often wondered why and how these set of ONEs did it. How did they break free from years of mental and emotional degradation? How did they turn out to be global voices, accomplished professionals, seasoned entertainers and world class entrepreneurs who are forces to reckon with in their sphere of influence? Why didn’t others make it through? How would our world turn out if EVERY child blossomed into successful adults? Is it possible for EVERY child to be conditioned to harness their full potential? Can EVERY child GROW UP SMART and STRONG? What are the underlying factors that determine which child did and which didn’t?
After all is said and done, I would think that everyone is interested in getting EVERY child to excel in some basic elements of intelligence like sound reasoning, proper planning, ability to solve problems, think abstractly, and decipher complex ideas. Make no mistake, intelligence is a pretty COMPLEX trait but the good thing is, it can be influenced by two powerful factors, genetic and environmental factors (U.S National Library of Medicine, 2020)
A number of genes have been identified, each of which is said to contribute little to the intelligence levels observed amongst different children, which makes intelligence hereditary. Likewise, the environment plays a monumental role in influencing intelligence levels. From Good NUTRITION to the home environment and parenting style, quality education and availability of learning resources, the environment plays a huge role in determining how EVERY child turns (U.S National Library of Medicine, 2020)
Where do we go from here? What do we make of this piece of information? Whose responsibility is it to make EVERY child smart? Who are the stakeholders in the future of a child?
Have you noticed that the fate of ONE child does impact the collective? And this, positively or negatively. Which then tells me that EVERYONE is a stakeholder because everyone will be impacted one way or another by how smart a child turns. Afterall it takes an entire village to raise ONE child.
You would notice if you observe the factors mentioned earlier, that some are beyond our control while others are well within our control. Some gives us the opportunity and advantage of an early start while others are introduced in the later life.
Therefore, in the light of our yearnings for a future that we can all eagerly anticipate and a lasting solution to the myriads of economic and political problems that threaten to engulf us, it has become imperative and urgent, while we work on imminent solutions, to also build the right foundation for a progressive future through the right investment in EVERY Child’s cognitive development by manipulating the factor that is both within our control and accord us the opportunity of an EARLY START – Good Nutrition
Good nutrition would be to EVERY child, what water is to a fish and land is to a man – the right, enabling environment. Good nutrition, especially during the early years is an enabler as it is crucial for physical growth and especially brain development
Multiple research corroborates the fact that the type of diet consumed by a child can affect his cognitive development and the type of food consumed at a specific age was associated with IQ scores(Ghazi et al, 2014). This means that certain diets may be good for an adult but may not be RIGHT for the child.
Parents are encouraged to look out for not just physical growth of the child but even more importantly the brain development. Research shows that 90% of brain growth and crucial aspects of its development occurs in the first 5 years of life and this is a critical window of opportunity to maximize a child’s learning potential through nutrition. The role of nutrition cannot be overemphasized! Many components of the diet are known to affect cognition and influence learning. However, DHA in particular is recognized as essential for normal brain function. DHA, Docosahexaenoic acid is a major building block of the brain required for optimal brain growth and development. It is the most abundant omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid in the brain and is found in oily fish, such as salmons, sardines and tuna. While it can be synthesized from alpha-linoleic acid, another plant based omega-3 fatty acid, this process is quiet limited and inefficient thus necessitating the need to consume it directly from food or supplements.
Several studies have shown the link between DHA and better school performance. Some studies done by Bryan J. et al 2004 and Kuratko et al 2013 showed that improving DHA status contributes to brain development by supporting these parameters: visual recognition, positive effects on motor skill development in early childhood, problem solving ability, improvement in short-term memory, reasoning and cognitive speediness.Diets consisting of brain-supportive nutrients like DHA must then be emphasized in the formative years of EVERY child as a well-supported brain is a well-developed brain and a child with a well-developed brain, both structurally and functionally is a child well positioned for smartness, sound decision making, problem solving abilities and the overall functioning and demand on a healthy brain
This brings to mind the words of Anthony Lake, the sixth executive director of UNICEF “children are tomorrow’s citizens, consumers, workers, thinkers and innovators. Their abilities will drive tomorrow’s businesses. Their productivity will fuel tomorrow’s economies and their capacity will shape tomorrow’s society”
Why wait then? We all must be on a race to feed the potential of EVERY child with the right nutrition, very early!
Need some Leverage? Peak 456 Growing-up milk is specially formulated with DHA and other key nutrients to support brain development in children aged 4-6 years.
*Emmanuela Awoh, is the Senior Medical Marketing Manager at FrieslandCampina