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Health experts discuss children’s nutrition

Update: March, 07/2019 - 18:40

Health experts discuss nutrition and growth in children at the 3rd Annual Growth Summit held in Valencia, Spain on Wednesday. — VNS Photo Thanh Hải

Viet Nam News

VALENCIA, SPAIN – International health experts discussed the interplay between nutrition and growth in children on the opening day of the 3rd Annual Growth Summit held in Valencia, Spain from Wednesday to Friday.

Hosted by Abbott Nutrition Health Institute, the event was an opportunity for more than 300 pediatricians, dietitians and healthcare professionals from 30 countries to discuss the latest scientific research and their experience in the field. The meeting was also a chance to gather experts to discuss how to aid children’s growth and the importance of nutrients in bone growth for young children.

“The main goal of our institute is to educate healthcare professionals for improving nutrition outcomes and to improve life of people through the power of nutrition” said Dr. Ricardo Rueda from Abbott.

“Supporting healthy growth is very important not only to provide quantity in terms of calories but also the quality of nutrition, the quality of nutrition supports that growth. We value the support of catch-up growth but try to avoid this catch-up fat, achieve growth with calories but growth also without fat deposition,” added Rueda.

At the event, participants from Abbott Nutrition Health Institute and healthcare professionals and pediatricians were provided with tools, including scientific research outcomes and evidence, as development materials that can be used by healthcare professionals in the future for the benefit of their patients.

Participants discussed various topics relating to nutrition and growth in children, such as nutrient needs, musculoskeletal growth, disease-related malnutrition and children’s growth from the points of view of psychologists, dietitians and clinicians.

They agreed that stunting was an indicator of chronic malnutrition. The prevalence of stunting remains at 30 per cent globally. They said that nutrition education lags behind science and lack of knowledge and training in nutrition is inadequate in various fields of clinical nutrition.

Doctors said between 30-50 per cent of deaths in under-5 children was directly or indirectly related to malnutrition. Children with three indicators of malnutrition, such as low hemoglobin levels, angular stomatitis, and sparse, thin hair, at three years old had a 15.3-point deficit in IQ at 11 years old.

Robert Murray Professor of Human Nutrition from College of Education and Human Ecology, Ohio State University said that developing countries like Việt Nam have a chance to reduce malnutrition prevalence for children at early stage.

Murray said that all children worldwide have the potential to grow the same according to a report of the  WHO. Children born anywhere in the world and given the optimum start in life have the potential to develop within the same range of height and weight. Naturally there are individual differences among children, but across large populations, regionally and globally, average growth is remarkably similar. Under-nutrition, overweight and obesity, and other growth-related conditions can then be detected and addressed at an early stage.

Murray suggested that countries like Việt Nam should try to make sure that pregnant females are healthy and provided with good nutrition. Diseases must be controlled and the environment around the baby has to be ideal. After the baby is born, nutrition becomes the most important factor in growth. Nutrition in the first five years together with lifestyle defines the growth potential of children.     

“All around the world babies are born and grow in the same ways. So it is not the question of developing or developed country. Give them the environment they will get the growth,” added Murray.

A survey conducted by UNICEF in 2017 showed that South Asia has the highest stunting rate among under-five children in the world. Statistics from the health ministry of Việt Nam showed that the rate of stunting in children under five years old in Việt Nam was still high, about 23.8 per cent while underweight rate accounted for 13.8 per cent in 2017. This means that one in four Vietnamese children under five years old suffers from stunting and malnutrition. 

In Việt Nam, clinical research conducted by Abbott and Thái Bình University on using oral nutrition supplement for 140 children in Thái Binh Province showed improved hospital outcomes of malnourished children as well as long term healthy growth, healthcare professionals can take oral nutrition supplements as a cost-effective approach and better care for children in hospital as well. — VNS