Bengaluru children are being brought up in some wrong way, as children below five years of age are showing signs of stunted growth, being overweight and underweight over the past four years as per the latest National Family Health Survey.
Compared with data of the previous survey (NFHS-4 in 2015-16), the findings on feeding practices and nutritional status of children in this age group show there has been a rise in children with stunted growth (height-for-age standard) from 28.1% (2015-16) to 31.3% (2019-20).
The underweight (weight-for-age parameter) children category has seen a rise from 26.8% (2015-16) to 28.1% (2019-20). Equally baffling is that the overweight category (weight-for-height) has also increased from 3.5% to 4.3%. Pediatricians concur there’s a problem on both ends of the weight spectrum.
According to Dr. Lini Balakrishnan, a pediatrician at Motherhood Hospital, the cause for being underweight and stunted growth is no more non-availability of food, but lack of nutrition. “Refined flour, bread, packaged cereal which may not be balanced in nutrients are hindering growth. Many parents depend on commercial products because of their easy availability. They lack vegetables, fruits, and fiber. Children lose interest in food over a period of time and eat less. It’s a vicious cycle,” she says.
Dr. Shivaprakash Sosale, joint secretary, Indian Academy of Paediatrics, Karnataka chapter, says many parents resort to bottle-feeding kids due to which children don’t feel hungry. “It’s easier to bottle-feed a child than making her eat. This leads to under- nutrition. Giving bottle-feeds of more than 700ml for infants can lead to iron deficiency. Excessive intake of cow’s milk reduces the absorption of iron leading to anaemia,” he says. According to him, it’s a major problem in cities like Bengaluru.
Dr. Lini mentions that stunting is a problem that is largely seen among children during 24-35 months of growth. According to Dr. Srinivas Kasi, malnutrition and stunted growth need to be tackled. “When malnutrition is prevalent for the short term, the weight gets affected. When it is prevalent for a long time, growth in terms of height gets affected, leading to stunting. This is a big issue in India,” he says.
Lack of activity and sedentary lifestyle are major concerns, according to Dr. Kasi. “There is a tendency to be more involved in sedentary activities, especially because of the attraction to electronic media and smart screens. Accessibility to junk food which is more calories and less protein, minerals, and micronutrients compounds it. The other growing concern is lack of availability of space for outdoor activities and this leads to childhood obesity,” he adds.
Paediatrics mention that increase in smart screen time is leading to excessive eating. “This should be avoided,” says Dr. Lini. The cycle of eating more and lack of activity has worsened during the pandemic, say, doctors.