Even though malnutrition is widespread in the country, there is at least a some good news: India’s youth are showing a marked improvement in height. In the Indian Academy of Paediatricians’ (IAP) revised growth chart for the ideal height, weight and body mass index (BMI) of children aged five to 18 years, there has been a significant rise in all three parameters. It states that the average height of an 18-year-old Indian boy increased by 2.8 cm between 1989 and 2014. The height of girls increased by 1 cm. With regards to weight, while 18-year-old boys are heavier by 7-10kg, girls showed just a 5 kg gain in weight.
The Hindustan Times reported that these figures have been based on the IAP’s study of 33,991 children from 14 cities in India. It stated that paediatricians have called this new growth chart an important development. “The chart is a result of extensively published review studies on the subject, and extensive data collected from across the country, which makes it all the more important,” said Nitin Shah, paediatrician and past president of IAP, under whom the first chart was published in 2007.
“Given the time gap between the last data gathering and now, a lot of changes have taken place in the environment, food patterns and other factors that influence growth. Besides, India is not homogenous population, and therefore it becomes all the more important that there is country specific reference,” said Samir Dalwai, paediatrician.
But bigger isn’t always better. India is catching up with the Western obesity crisis as well, with prevalence rapidly increasing in the country.
“Recent studies from India on obesity among children have shown that not only is there a rise in the incidence of overweight and obesity, but adiposity – excessive fat around the abdominal region – too is seen at a younger age. The pattern of growth in children has changed and hence we urgently need to update Indian growth charts,” said the guideline accentuating the need for a revised growth chart.
Abdominal fat that is not just below the skin, also known as visceral fat, is strongly linked with Type 2 diabetes, an illness that is reaching epidemic proportions in India.
So we need to moderate the celebration and make sure that our children learn about healthy eating and the importance of exercise.
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