The intake of Vitamin D, iron and calcium in local preschoolers is far less than the recommended guidelines of the World Health Organization, according to a university study.
Using the 24-hour recall method, the Chinese University of Hong Kong collected data on the diet intake - over two weekdays and one weekend - of 181 infants, aged 30 to 60 months.
The interim results, as of November, of the three-year investigation that began in April 2011, revealed the intake of essential nutrients fell below that of the WHO recommended intake for Chinese children.
For instance, Vitamin D was 58.3 percent for girls and 60.6percent for boys; the intake of calcium 71.1percent for girls and 71.5percent for boys, and that of iron 88.6percent for girls and 98.8 percent for boys.
However, children's sodium intake far exceeded the upper level recommended by the US Dietary Reference Intake at 125.3 and 125.9percent, for girls and boys, respectively.
"Nutrition during infancy is an important part of the child's well-being as they grow," Peggy Yip Pui-sze, who led the research, said.
"Insufficient or excessive intake of key nutrient elements may adversely affect their growth and development in the long run,"
The dietitian added: "Vitamin D helps the body absorb and utilize calcium which maintains strong bones, teeth and helps in muscle and heart contraction. Iron produces red blood cells."
She warned that the lack of this vitamin in children may lead to rickets.
Furthermore, the lack of iron may result in anemia.
Insufficient calcium may also cause osteoporosis, tooth problems and even retard growth.
On the other hand, an excessive intake of sodium may lead to high blood pressure and increased calcium loss.
The research also revealed that there was a lack of awareness and emphasis on nutrition by some parents, who failed to notice the quantity of fruits their children ate at every meal.
Albert Lee, director of the CUHK Centre for Health Education and Health Promotion, said public education is important in order to redress the situation.
"We encourage parents to be good role models for their children," Lee said.
This is the first study funded by the Wyeth Nutrition Academy, which was founded this year by Wyeth Nutrition Hong Kong.