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Unhealthy food and inactivity making Pune kids short, overweight: study

The fall in dietary energy, protein and micronutrients intake was sharpest when children were 10-11 years old, which is when growth spurts occur.

pune Updated: Apr 29, 2018 15:15 IST
Jui Dharwadkar
Jui Dharwadkar
Hindustan Times, Pune
Pune,Obesity,children
The 3-18 years old students from middle-class families in Pune, Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata, and Raipur were followed for five years for the study.(HT REPRESENTATIVE PHOTO)

Unhealthy diets low in protein and micronutrients coupled with an inactive, sedentary lifestyle is making children overweight and shorter than their growth potential, found a five-city study of more than 4,700 students in India.

The 3-18 years old students from middle-class families in Pune, Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata, and Raipur were followed for five years for the study.

The fall in dietary energy, protein and micronutrients intake was sharpest when children were 10-11 years old, which is when growth spurts occur.

Since the children did not belong to poor families, the cause of the nutritional and growth deficits wasn’t lack of money but unhealthy food choices and lack of physical activity, said researchers.

“Mean daily energy and protein intakes as recommended dietary allowance (RDA) were significantly lower in both boys and girls above 6 years, with 55% reduction in micronutrient intakes in older children. When compared to WHO references, lower heights in pubertal boys and girls were related to dietary energy and protein intake,” said the study led by Dr Anuradha Vaman Khadilkar, deputy director at Hirabai Cowasji Jehangir Medical Research Institute of Jehangir Hospital in Pune.

The study highlights that changing dietary patterns that favour high-fat fast foods, sweetened beverages and energy-dense food are increasing the risk of nutrient imbalance, which need to be countered by eating more fruits and vegetables.

“There is malnutrition in children from rural parts, while in urban areas, there is childhood obesity, which is another kind of malnutrition,” Dr Khadilkar said.

Increasing the intake of nutrients, minerals and vitamins by eating fruits and vegetables and increasing physical activity must be made a priority for Indian children to lower weight gain and obesity in adolescence.

For the study, data was collected from 2,623 boys and 2,124 girls between 2010 and 2012, and the diet data entry and analysis was done over the next three years, till 2015.

The five cities were selected for data collection to capture all geographical locations of India. “One major city, based on per capita income from various regions of India, was selected and a list of schools catering to children of socio-economically well-off families was made for each city with the help of local co-investigators. Six schools were then randomly selected from each city and were approached for permissions to carry out measurements,” she said.

The study has been accepted for publication by Paediatric Research, the official publication of the American Paediatric Society, European Society for Paediatric Research, and the Society for Paediatric Research.

First Published: Apr 29, 2018 15:13 IST