Chapter 11 – The Life Cycle: Conception through the Later Years

Chapter 11 – The Life Cycle: Conception through the Later Years
Chapter 11 Summary
Pregnancy: Nutrition for the Future
Growth is a major factor influencing the nutritional needs of developing infants and children. The growth
rate is faster during prenatal life and the first year. During pregnancy, changes in both mothers’ and
infants’ bodies necessitate increased intakes of the growth nutrients. A pregnant woman should gain
about 25 to 35 pounds from foods of high nutrient density. Normal weight gain and adequate nutrition
support the health of the mother and the development of the fetus. Low weight gain in pregnancy is
associated with increased risk of delivering a low-birth-weight baby. Alcohol, smoking, drugs, herbal
remedies, dieting, and unbalanced nutrient intakes should be avoided during pregnancy.
Healthy Infants
Breast milk or formula provides the rapidly growing infant with needed nutrients in quantities suitable to
support the infant’s growth. The advantages of breast milk over formula are that it protects the infant
against disease and allergy development and is premixed to the correct proportions. Additions to a
baby’s diet are selected according to the baby’s changing nutrient needs and readiness to handle new
foods. Among the first nutrients needed in amounts beyond those provided by breast milk are iron and
vitamin C. Feeding a balanced diet, avoiding empty-calorie foods, and encouraging infants to learn to like
a variety of foods can promote normal weight gain, tooth development, and health.
Early and Middle Childhood
After the age of one, a child’s growth rate slows, and with it, the appetite. However, all essential nutrients
continue to be needed in adequate amounts from foods with a high nutrient density. When children go to
school, their nutrition needs are partly met by school lunch programs. Another influential factor in the
lives of children is television, with many advertisements for sugary foods; others include vending
machines and fast foods, which often limit choices to foods of low quality.
Sound nutrition practices may prevent future health problems to some extent—among these problems
are obesity, iron-deficiency anemia, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Over the past two decades, the
percentage of children who are overweight has nearly doubled, and the percentage of adolescents who
are overweight has almost tripled. Genetic susceptibility to obesity, lifestyle, family eating patterns, large
portion sizes, lack of positive role models, and inactivity all contribute to overweight and obesity in this
The Importance of Teen Nutrition
The teen years mark the transition from a time when children eat what they are fed to a time when they
choose for themselves what to eat. Specific nutrition-related problems among U.S. adolescents include
undernutrition, overweight, iron-deficiency anemia, low dietary calcium intakes, high blood cholesterol
levels, dental caries, and eating disorders.
Nutrition in Later Life
Aging is an inevitable, natural process programmed into our genes at conception. Many of the changes
are inevitable, but a healthful lifestyle that combines regular physical activity with adequate intakes of all
essential nutrients can forestall degeneration and improve the quality of life into the later years.
Although caloric needs may decrease with age, the need for certain nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D,
vitamin C, vitamin B12, and vitamin B6 may actually increase with the effects of aging. A new, narrower
food guide pyramid for adults over age 70 shows a recommended eating pattern that reflects the lower
caloric needs of most healthy older adults and emphasizes the need for adequate fluid intake. The
enjoyment of food is enhanced if loneliness—a major problem of older people living alone—can be
alleviated. Eating with others often restores the appetite and health that may seem to be failing due to
degenerative disease.
As a person gets older, the chances of suffering a chronic illness or disability become greater. Individually
or in combination, the social, economic, psychological, cultural, and environmental factors associated
with aging may interact with the physiological changes and further affect nutrition status in older adults.
Assessment tools from the Nutrition Screening Initiative help individuals identify and score factors
placing them at nutritional risk. Old age need not be a time of despair, isolation, and ill health.
Preparation for enjoyable later years should include financial planning, the establishment of lasting social
contacts, the learning of skills and activities that can be pursued into later life, the maintenance of a
program of regular physical activity, and the cultivation of healthy nutrition status throughout life.
Looking Ahead and Growing Old
Adults should prepare financially, socially and health-wise for the future, so that they can reach old age
with a healthy mind and body. Avoiding social isolation is especially important.
Addressing Childhood Obesity
A growing population of overweight children in the U.S. is developing chronic diseases such as type 2
diabetes, CVD, and gallbladder disease. Social trends, including fast food dining and sedentary activities
for children, have contributed to overweight in children. Modeling for and teaching healthy eating and
exercise habits to children can help them to grow without excessive weight gain, and maintain a healthy
body composition later in life.