Opti-5 and Childhood Illness

How does the Opti-5 system relate to nutrition?

The Opti-5 system recognized that the five areas of:

  • Digestive health
  • Cognitive function
  • Eye health
  • Immunity
  • Growth & Development

are integrated to support optimal health and wellbeing​. All 5 health areas are likely to be affected, either alone or in combination, by sub-optimal health or conditions.

The common factor here is the nutrients, and each area has its own unique nutrient functions and requirements. In general, nutrients can be simplified into serving two main purposes in infants and children, based on their biological roles in the body:

Energy production​: macronutrients such as carbohydrates and fats are broken down with the help of micronutrients to release energy in cells and tissues

Building-up and utilization: protein and micronutrients help to use the energy that is produced to make new parts of cells and tissues, which is how tissues grow and regenerate.

  • Digestion: extracts nutrients from food and controls their absorption into the body, and uses what is left over to power itself
  • Brain function: consumes carbohydrates and specific nutrients to power itself and the proceses it uses controls how the rest of the body uses energy
  • Eye function: is integrated with brain health in controlling how the body moves and learns, which are key energy consuming processes
  • Immunity: consumes macro- and micro-nutrients that protect the integrity of all systems
  • Growth and development: the biggest consumer of energy and nutrients in growing children

What happens to the 5 areas during illness?

Each of the different areas undergo sudden changes in the way they normally function during a short term illness such as an infection. One of the biggest problems is a loss of nutrients. There is consistent evidence that the severity of illness, particularly infections, in children correlates with a lack of specific micronutrients in the body [1] such as zinc and vitamin A.

  • Digestion: dysfunctional
    • Loses its ability to hold absorb and retain micronutrients and water, especially water soluble vitamins and minerals as electrolytes (because they are lost through water)
    • May experience a shift in balance from good to bad bacteria in the gut
    • Becomes overactive, which is what happens during diarrhea
    • Appetite might be lost
  • Brain function: compromised
    • May not function as it should because lower micronutrients availability and energy is used for repairing the body
    • Cognitive decline may result from lack of energy and disturbed sleep
    • Children become less responsive and interactive
  • Eye function: compromised
    • Loss of hand-eye co-ordination and balance
    • May be affected by secondary infections and tiredness, which can irritate them
  • Immunity: increased
    • Goes into overdrive by consumes higher levels of macro- and micro-nutrients that support its increased activity
    • Activity is related to having to deal with infections, tissue damage and recovery periods
    • The need for maintaining immunity micronutrients increases
  • Growth and development: delayed
    • Loss of energy and diversion of micronutrients away causes short term growth faltering[2]
    • These also cause loss of physical function, which further delays skeletal growth, until catch up growth sets in

Comprehensive nutrient supplementation is paramount

Because all 5 systems are integrated through nutrients and through working relationships, the need for maintaining a complete selection of nutrients is very important. Multiple micronutrient delivery has been shown to be superior to supplementing with only a selected set of micronutrients, in maintaining linear growth in under 5-year-old children [3].

This approach has demonstrated the ability to lower the risk of childhood illnesses such as diarrhea and the severity of respiratory infections[4], especially in countries where undernutrition is a major ongoing cause of morbidity

  1. Kuti et al. J Infect Dev Ctries. 2021 Jul 31;15(7):953-961 Serum Micronutrients as related to Childhood Pneumonia Severity and Outcome in a Nigerian Health Facility – PubMed (nih.gov)
  2. Dewey and Mayers. Matern Child Nutr. 2011 Oct;7 Suppl 3(Suppl 3):129-42. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1740-8709.2011.00357.x
  3. Ramakrishnan et al. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Jan;89(1):191-203. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/89/1/191/4598241
  4. Tam et al. Nutrients. 2020 Jan 21;12(2):289.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31973225/