Food and Nutrition

Why specialized nutrition is required to catch up on lost growth?

Archana Batra
3 to 7 years

Created by Archana Batra
Updated on Jan 19, 2019

Why specialized nutrition is required to catch up on lost growth

Catching up on lost growth means prompting growth at a rate faster than expected. Now, this mechanism is seen after a period of growth-delay due to malnutrition, illness or improper diet intake (when the cause of growth deficit is removed).

One of the major reasons for growth delay in children is malnutrition. There have been numerous researches showing that children who have poor diets or inadequate intake of nutrients are more prone to significant short-term and long-term health problems. They have low immunity and are more prone to infections. Research also relates poor nutrition to cognition problems and poor academic performance in school.

Early under-nutrition is also reflected in the children’s physical growth trajectories. So, it is advisable to keep a track of the growth chart and check if your child is perfect for his/her age.

If your child didn’t get proper nutrition during the early years, you can still catch-up with the growth. Clinical experience shows that near-complete catch-up on growth is possible in infants and young children, but not in children nearing to or in puberty.

However, keep in mind - catch-up growth requires extra nutrients, more than the recommended dietary intake for a particular age group. For e.g.  - *energy needs for catch up growth may be 50% greater than the DRI for an age. Similarly, for catch-up growth to occur, extraordinarily high protein intakes are required.

The nutrients, most significant for catch-up growth are - macronutrients carbohydrates, proteins, fats and micronutrients like iron, calcium, zinc potassium, folate and Vitamin A, D, C to name a few.

Carbohydrate & Fats

Carbohydrates and fats provide energy to the body. Carbohydrates provide 4 kcal/g while fats provide 9 kcal/g. High energy is needed by the body for catch-up growth to happen, but make sure that the food doesn’t simply provide empty calories.


As energy, protein needs may be greater than the RDA for a certain age. Protein is required to build, maintain and repair body tissues. Good quality protein also provides essential amino acids to a kid’s body to produce enzymes and hormones, and hence helps in proper bodily functions.


Different micro-nutrients perform different but significant functions in the body.


It is important for building strong bones and teeth. If calcium requirement is not met properly during childhood, bone density might suffer.


It is needed for the formation of healthy blood cells that helps in transporting oxygen around the body.


Zinc is needed for healthy growth and development, and normal neurological and immune function.  


Vitamin A and C are required for immunity building. Vitamin A is also essential for healthy eyes, skin and vision. Whereas, Vitamin D is required for absorption of calcium.

In a recent study published in April 2016 in the issue of Pediatric International (study conducted in a country where childhood nutritional deficiencies are common) highlighted the importance of micronutrients. It was found that supplementing school-children with zinc and a multivitamin resulted in a significantly greater increase in height compared to the placebo. 

In a nutshell, the nutrient needs for catch-up growth are quite high and should be met by providing a nutritional supplement along with a variety of nutrient-dense foods from the 5 food groups – cereals, proteins, fruits and vegetables and dairy.

*Estimated energy requirements for catch up growth excerpts taken from: Nevin Follino N, ed. Pediatric Manual of Clinical Dietetics, 2 nd ed. American Dietetics Association. 2003.


Disclaimer: The views, opinions and recommendations expressed in this article are solely those of the author who is a nutritionist and intended as an educational aid. This is an awareness drive powered by Horlick’s Growth Plus to help your child catch up on lost growth. Horlick’s Growth plus is clinically proven to show visible signs of growth in six months. You are encouraged to obtain professional advice concerning specific health / medical matters.

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| Feb 16, 2018

It is a very helpful read. Thank you.

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| Feb 08, 2018

I think as parents we have to see it differently too. Iron, protein and other essential nutrients are needed in child growth apart from carbohydrates

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| Feb 08, 2018

good blog. thanks for sharing

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| Feb 02, 2018

@zara- the best non-vegetarian sources of zinc are oysters, fish, lean meats and eggs. The best vegetarian sources are soyabeans, kidney-beans, tofu, chick peas, nuts like almonds and cashews, seeds like pumpkin seeds etc.

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| Feb 02, 2018

@Bhakti, Children have higher protein requirements than the adults to support the growth and development of the body. Proteins are also required for the formation of hemoglobin, plasma proteins, hormones, vitamins and enzymes. Numerous studies have shown positive impact of incorporating good quality proteins into the diets of young children. High quality or High biological value proteins are those which have all the essential amino acids (essential- because our body can't synthesize them on its own). So, foods such as milk. eggs. meat, fish are considered high biological value protein foods. But this doesn't mean that vegetarian diet is not good. So, different vegetarian protein foods like cereals and dals have different combination of amino acids.. and when taken together, the biological value of protein in the meal increases. For eg- Having combination foods like khichdi( combination of dal & rice)... is better than having plain rice.

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| Feb 01, 2018

What are the good insights for protein?

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| Jan 30, 2018

nothing like it. many parents carry this guilt feeling that their child couldn't reach to his max growth potential. however catching up on lost growth with extra nutrition is a good news for parents.

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| Jan 30, 2018

What is the best source of Zinc?

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| Jan 30, 2018

good insights. as parent growth is a prime concern.

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