Severe malnourishment a major cause of stunting among Indian children below five

Health Care, Heart Care Foundation of India, Medicine Comments Off

Inclusion of fortified food, creating awareness among expectant mothers, and encouraging breastfeeding are some aspects that can help address this

New Delhi, 05 June 2018: Severe undernourishment has left two in five children below the age of five in India stunted, as per a global report. This highlights a stubborn problem in child health in India, which has otherwise shown some improvement. About 38.4% children below the age of five are stunted in the country. There is a need to create awareness that growth and development is impaired in stunted children. They are vulnerable to repeated infections that can also affect brain development, thereby leading to learning problems.

WHO defines Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) as very low weight for height, visible severe wasting or the presence of nutritional oedema (swelling). India’s battle with this condition is still away from a win.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee, Dr K K Aggarwal, President, HCFI, said, “SAM is caused by a significant imbalance between nutritional intake and individual needs. It is most often caused by both quantitative (number of kilocalories/day) and qualitative (vitamins and minerals, etc.) deficiencies. Wasting and stunting are often two separate forms of malnutrition requiring different interventions for prevention and/or treatment. However, they are closely related and often occur together in the same populations and often in the same children. Children with severe malnutrition experience slow behavioral and intellectual development, leading to intellectual disabilities later in life. Even when they are treated, under nutrition can have long-term effects in children including impairments in mental function and digestive problems, which can last for their whole life.”

Some signs and symptoms of malnutrition include loss of fat, breathing difficulties, abnormally low body temperature, weakened immunity, higher susceptibility to feeling cold, longer healing time for wounds, reduced muscle mass, tiredness and fatigue, and irritability.
Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Vice President of CMAAO, said, “Some important cornerstones for addressing SAM sustainably include food security; protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding and optimal complementary feeding; preventing early child bearing; strengthening preventive and curative health systems; enhancing literacy; and improving water supply and sanitation.”

Some tips from HCFI.
There are four major food groups that should form a part of a child’s diet plan. These include:
• Bread, rice, potatoes, and other starchy foods. This forms the largest portion of the diet and provides calories for energy and carbohydrates that are converted to sugars which provide energy.
• Milk and dairy foods – Vital sources of fats and simple sugars like lactose as well as minerals like Calcium
• Fruit and vegetables – Vital sources of vitamins and minerals as well as fiber and roughage for better digestive health
• Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy sources of protein – These form the building blocks of the body and help in numerous body and enzyme functions.