The early years, between the ages of one and six, are a period of rapid physical, social and cognitive growth and a nutritionally adequate diet is an important factor for optimum development. We investigated the micronutrient adequacy and status of young US children aged 1-6 years (n = 9848) using 24-h dietary recall interviews completed by parents and caregivers participating in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2001-2016. data. The proportion of the sample not meeting the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) increased with increasing age and was most pronounced for calcium. Despite adequate iron intake, 7.4% and 2.5% had signs of iron deficiency and anemia based on serum ferritin and hemoglobin levels, with younger children and WIC participants at most risk and Non-Hispanic Black children the least. Vitamin B6 intake was adequate, but 6.4% had serum pyridoxal-5-phosphate deficiency. For vitamin E, 69% had intakes below the estimated average requirement (EAR), yet serum deficiency was only detected in 0.9%. Vitamin D intake was inadequate for 87%, but true deficiency may be overestimated. Mean DHA intake was 24 mg/d, well below expert recommendations of 70-100 mg/day. Iron and vitamin B6 deficiency and inadequate calcium, fiber, choline, potassium and DHA intakes are a concern for a significant percentage of young children. The discrepancy between nutrient intakes and serum deficiency levels needs to be further investigated.
Keywords: NHANES; iron; nutrient adequacy; nutrient status; young children.