Monday Musings: What are we doing to our children?
Children from well-off families have been found to be ‘malnourished’ because of bad dietary habits and increasingly sedentary behaviour.pune Updated: Apr 30, 2018 15:00 IST
As indulgent and over-indulgent parents, we try to do our best for our children and fulfil their every wish. Most parents lose the battle when children are fussy about food and throw regular tantrums over their refusal to eat fruits and vegetables, and their demand for oily fast foods and sugared drinks. Added to this is the growing list of processed foods, with noodles right at the top which have invaded our kitchens.
The consequences of all this is disastrous as shown by a research reported by Hindustan Times on its front page on April 30, ‘Unhealthy food and inactivity making city kids short, overweight: study’.
By the time children are 10 year olds, their food eating habits and preferences are more or less set. Their body is preparing for puberty and needs healthy and nutritious food along with adequate physical activity to achieve its fullest growth potential. But what exactly is happening? The alarming truth is that by the age of 10-11, children develop poor eating habits, a poor diet, and increasingly become sedentary because of mobile phones, other electronic devices and the rising pressure of studies.
All of this not only drives them towards childhood obesity but also nutritional deficiency, making city kids short and overweight.
These findings are based on a research study of 4,700 school children from five cities, including Pune, undertaken by Dr Anuradha V Khadilkar and six others. Dr Khadilkar is deputy director at Hirabai Cowasji Jehangir Medical Research Institute of Jehangir Hospital and is affiliated with the growth and endocrine unit of her institute and the department of paediatric endocrinology, Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, United Kingdom (UK).
This landmark study which took five years to complete has revealed that reduction in daily energy, protein and micronutrient intakes in children above six years resulted in lower heights in pubertal boys and girls.
What is most surprising is that these children from Pune, Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata, and Raipur were not from poor households, but from well-off families and yet were suffering from lower energy, protein and micronutrient intakes because of poor diet. Dr Khadilkar called this ‘malnutrition of another kind,’ which ought to make us city parents ashamed of ourselves.
Very precisely, the decline in energy adequacy and dietary protein intake in the children was detected at around 10-11 years, which is the usual age of adolescent growth. Reduced micronutrient intake around this age could potentially impact growth, development and health of children, the study said.
As her study noted, changing dietary practices such as consumption of fast foods, sweetened beverages and energy dense food was increasing the risk of nutrient imbalance which needed to be addressed by eating more fruits and vegetables.
Thus, the intake of nutrients, minerals and vitamins, eating fruits and vegetables needs to be made a priority for our children. Along with this, they need to be physically active, play more games, engage in cycling, trekking or other such activities of their choice and reduce sedentary behaviour.
City parents, whose own health has become an issue in itself because of almost similar factors, lifestyle issues and added stress on the work and personal fronts, need to take responsibility for what is happening.
The bottom line is, our children need higher intake of vegetables, salads and fruits for getting essential vitamins and minerals; good protein intake from milk, eggs, pulses and other sources. We need to help them reduce consumption of fast foods, sweetened beverages and energy dense food or fatty foods.