Water: a neglected nutrient in the young child? A South African perspective

Matern Child Nutr. 2007 Oct;3(4):303-11. doi: 10.1111/j.1740-8709.2007.00114.x.


Water is considered an essential nutrient because the body cannot produce enough water itself, by metabolism of food, to fulfil its need. When the quantity or quality of water is inadequate, health problems result, most notably dehydration and diarrhoea. As a result of contaminated water and poor hygiene, related infections are still a serious problem. Indeed, in the South African setting water availability and sanitation are critical issues because of the prevalence of childhood diarrhoea and also the HIV/AIDS crisis. Though considerable efforts have been made to improve the water and sanitation problems in South Africa - especially with regard to water supply infrastructure - there is still room for much improvement. Water is a healthy alternative to calorie-dense, non-nutritive beverages, such as artificial fruit drinks and soda. The latter should be avoided as they contribute little other than energy and may contribute to overweight and obesity. Also, they displace more nutritious foods from the child's diet. Consumption of fruit juice should also be limited. These issues highlight the need for a specific guideline relating to water intake in the paediatric food-based dietary guidelines.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dehydration / epidemiology
  • Diarrhea / epidemiology
  • Drinking / physiology*
  • Energy Intake / physiology*
  • Female
  • Fresh Water / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Hygiene
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Nutrition Policy*
  • Nutritional Requirements
  • Nutritive Value
  • South Africa