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Disturbing trends in students’ eating habits from Kochi, Kerala

Posted:  Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The State of Kerala has been hailed for having the best child development indicators in India. However, this major feat is only one side of the coin. A recent study found disturbing trends in the students’ eating habits within the state.

Mumtaz Khalid Ismail, a clinical nutritionist and former nutrition consultant of UNICEF and former State nutrition consultant, National Rural Health Mission, led a study involving 1058 school children (10-12 year) living in Kochi Corporation and the nearby rural areas.

The findings of the study can be summed up as follows:

•    The body mass index (BMI) of the students was not consistent with the World Health Organization’s standards for that age group.

• The body mass index (BMI) of the students was not consistent with the World Health Organization’s standards for that age group.

• It was found that 11.25 % urban and 10.7% rural school children were severely underweight.

• Obesity prevalence was 9.4% in urban areas and 2.9% in rural areas.

• Higher obesity prevalence in urban areas was attributable to the greater likelihood of eating out.

• It was found that 17.15% and 4.7% of urban and rural children respectively, were overweight.

• The total nutrient intake did not meet the Indian Council of Medical Research’s recommendation on dietary allowances for 10-12 year olds.

• The daily intake of total energy, protein and visible fat was low.

• The iron intake deficit among rural girls and boys was -56.19% and -45.29% respectively. Their urban counterparts showed a deficit of -46.76% among girls and -29.28% among boys, respectively.

• The calcium intake deficit was -64.09% among rural girls and -36.06% in urban girls while the same was -65.35% in rural boys and -33.81% in urban boys.

The National Family Health Survey (NFHS-3, 2005–06) data showed that obesity prevalence paralleled that of the West whereas over a fourth (27–29%) of the children were malnourished. Dr. Khalid observed that skipping meals, picky eating and lack of a fixed time schedule were the main culprits behind the low nutrient intake.

These study findings are a major cause of concern since nutrition significantly impacts growth and development, especially in children approaching puberty.

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