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Edited by F M Delange, K P West Jr, S Karger. 2003, $198.25 (hardcover). ISBN 3805575599
Micronutrient deficiencies in the first few months of life may not keep you awake at night if you are working in the UK, and this book may not grab your attention straight away, but you should give it some consideration whatever your branch or specialty in paediatrics. The book is a collection of 16 papers, written by an international panel of experts, which are the proceedings of a workshop held in Dubai in October 2002.
Most of us will be familiar with the problems of iron deficiency in early infancy and the debate on the role of neonatal vitamin K administration, and, if pushed, many of us would be able to say something about the public health implications of maternal folic acid supplementation and prevention of neural tube defects. This book presents papers that provide thorough state of the art reviews of these subjects. The practice of most UK based paediatricians won’t frequently encompass micronutrient deficiencies outside of these aforementioned areas, but this book reminds us that, from a global perspective, nutritional deficiency problems are extremely prevalent. Vitamin A deficiency probably affects over 40% of the world’s children, and iodine deficiency affects over 10%, with salt iodination theoretically simple, but practically complicated. Iron deficiency is a truly global problem which affects at least one in three children world wide.
Many of us might be surprised to learn that over 50% of children in China and Tibet have features of rickets (which is also a growing (sic) problem among certain groups in the UK), and the latest evidence on the benefits of zinc supplementation in the prevention and treatment of diarrhoea, and in promotion of linear growth from field trials in developing countries, is truly compelling. Because the book is really a series of presented papers, it is genuinely more readable than a textbook on the subject. A paper on the relation between micronutrients in pregnancy and early infancy and mental and psychomotor development, and another on special micronutrient concerns in premature infants were of particular interest to my personal practice. Discussions after the papers were presented have been included and often highlight areas of uncertainty or real practical importance.
Of course, in a book such as this there are going to be areas that don’t get covered, and, if you were looking for a comprehensive tome on this subject, then spending your money on a textbook might be better. But many of us purchase textbooks and then allow them to sit on the shelves collecting dust while we only “dip into” them occasionally. The good thing about this type of book is that you might actually end up reading some of it!
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