Following the outbreak, there have been growing concerns over child immune system development. In light of this, a nationwide survey revealed that Malaysian parents changed their nutritional choices to maintain the health of their family.
The #ImmunityMatters study comprised of more than 500 parents with children above one years old and was conducted by Mead Johnson Nutrition's Enfagrow A+ Malaysia. Findings revealed that 82 per cent of parents believed that a child's immunity could be nurtured overtime. In turn, 95 per cent of parents were focused on familiarising themselves with immunity boosting foods.
“This survey is part of our campaign #StrongerImmunityforASmarterTomorrow, in efforts to understand the concerns and behaviour of parents towards the role of nutrition in building immunity.
The company’s purpose is to protect, heal and nurture in the relentless pursuit of a cleaner, healthier world. Inspired by our purpose, we believe that it is important to educate parents on the benefits of proper nutrition influencing immunity in early years and beyond, so parents are able to make more informed decisions that will positively impact their child’s health and immunity,” said Dr Tan Choon Kiat, Medical Director of Mead Johnson Nutrition.
Results also uncovered other insights into the choices of parents amidst the current landscape. These included:
- 52 per cent of parents believed that their child's nutrition could be improved;
- 94 per cent believed nutrition plays an important part of their child's health;
- 42 per cent made a conscious decision to change their family's food choices;
- 84 per cent of family shopping lists have shown that parents were looking into immunity-building foods to improve their natural defenses.
Milk remains an important factor in a child's nutritionOver 70 to 80 per cent of immune cells are found in our gut. Diet with the right nutrients can help modulate immune function, reduce the risk of infection and amplify the inflammatory responses when attacked by pathogen or viruses1.
When it came to choosing foods that parents believed were the best for an immunity boost, 54 per cent chose milk among the top five food choices in building strong immunity. From the survey, over 81% parents cited the importance of milk in their child’s overall nutrition and 63% of parents give their child milk at least three times a day - according to the Malaysian Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents 2013, children are encouraged to consume two to three servings of milk or dairy products daily.
Milk is one of the most important contribution in a child’s diet as it is a nutrient-dense food provides energy, high-quality protein and micronutrients such as calcium magnesium, selenium, riboflavin, vitamin B12, as well as pantothenic acid2. Milk supplemented with ingredients such as MFGM, DHA, PDX- GOS and Yeast Beta Glucan works in synergy to help protect against infection.
Meanwhile, 88 per cent also gravitated to vegetable to boost their body's health, followed by fruits (80 per cent), meat (55 per cent) and grains (42 per cent).
Key ingredients to modulate child immune system developmentThe process of building a child’s immunity begins with these key ingredients that has been scientifically demonstrated to activate and modulate the immune system, while reducing the risk of infections:
- Milk Fat Globule Membrane (MFGM) is a nutrient rich component naturally present in our brain and studies have shown that MFGM play dual roles in supporting mental development and immune defense in the gut. Consumption of MFGM enriched milk by children above one (1) year old was found to have a protective effect against gastrointestinal infections, producing a significant decrease in days of fever symptoms and leading to improved behavioral regulation (EQ)3.
- Polyunsaturated fatty acids such as docosahexaenoic (DHA) is found in our brain and fatty fish such as salmon. DHA helps modulates the function of the immune cell response to bacteria and viruses. Working together, DHA modulates a balanced and effective immune response to fight infections4.
- Prebiotic dietary fibers such as PDX-GOS promotes good digestive health as it encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. It has modulating properties to the immune system, demonstrating protection against infections5.
- Research has shown that children that consume fortified milk containing DHA, PDX-GOS, Yeast Beta-Glucan was associated with fewer episodes and shorter duration of acute respiratory illnesses as well as less antibiotic use6.
1. Gombart, A. F., Pierre, A., & Maggini, S. (2020). A Review of Micronutrients and the Immune System-Working in Harmony to Reduce the Risk of Infection. Nutrients, 12(1), 236. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12010236
2. National Coordinating Committee on Food and Nutrition. Malaysian Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents 2013. Retrieved from: http://nutrition.moh.gov.my/wpcontent/uploads/penerbitan/buku/MDG_Children_adolescent_2014.pdf.
3. Veereman-Wauters G et al. Milk fat globule membrane (INPULSE) enriched formula milk decreases febrile episodes and may improve behavioral regulation in young children. Nutrition. 2012;28:749-752. Retrieved from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0899900711003741?via% 3Dihub
4. Gutiérrez, S., Svahn, S. L., & Johansson, M. E. (2019). Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acids on Immune Cells. International journal of molecular
5. Cerdo T, García-Santos JA, Bermúdez MG et al. The role of probiotics and prebiotics in the prevention and treatment of obesity. Nutrients 2019; 11:635.
6. Li F, Jin X, Liu B, Zhuang W, Scalabrin D. Follow-up Formula consumption in 3- to 4-Year-Olds and Respiratory Infections: An RCT. Pediatrics 2014;133:e1533- 1540. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24843061
This article originally appeared on The Asian Parent