India has highest number of malnourished children in world

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A new study by The Lancet journal has made a shocking revelation on the health condition of children living in India with a whopping 9.7 crore of them suffering from underweight. It also said that India had the highest number of moderately and severely underweight children and adolescents in the world.

The study, led by Imperial College London in the UK and the World Health Organization also found that in India 24.4 percent of girls and 39.3 percent of boys were moderately or severely underweight in 1975 compared to 22.7 per cent and 30.7 per cent underweight in 2016. The researchers noted that an estimated 19.2 crore – 7.5 crore girls and 11.7 crore boys – were moderately or severely underweight worldwide in 2016.

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Nationally, the prevalence of moderate and severe underweight was less than 1% among girls in 45 countries and among boys in 29 countries in 2016 (figure 3). Prevalence of moderate and severe underweight was high throughout south Asia, reaching 22·7% (95% CrI 16·7–29·6) among girls and 30·7% (23·5–38·0) among boys in India. Obesity prevalence was between 1% and 2% among girls in Cambodia, Burkina Faso, Vietnam, Ethiopia, India, Madagascar, Republic of the Congo, Japan, Nepal, Niger, and Chad. Obesity prevalence was less than 1% among boys in Uganda, Rwanda, Niger, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Guinea, Chad, and Senegal and between 1% and 2% in another 24 countries, concluded the Lancet report.

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If current trends continue, more children and adolescents will be obese than moderately or severely underweight by 2022, researchers said. The team analysed weight and height measurements from nearly 130 million people aged over five years – 31.5 million people aged 5 to 19 years, and 97.4 million aged 20 years and older. Researchers looked at body mass index (BMI) and how obesity has changed worldwide from 1975 to 2016.

The study further said that the rising trends in children’s and adolescents’ BMI had plateaued in many high-income countries, albeit at high levels, but have accelerated in parts of Asia, with trends no longer correlated with those of adults.

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These worrying trends reflect the impact of food marketing and policies across the globe, with healthy nutritious foods too expensive for poor families and communities. The trend predicts a generation of children and adolescents growing up obese and also malnourished, researchers said. “We need ways to make healthy, nutritious food more available at home and school, especially in poor families and communities, and regulations and taxes to protect children from unhealthy foods,” Ezzati said.

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