Vietnamese people growing taller but childhood obesity a concern, survey reveals

April, 16/2021 - 06:20

The main findings of the National General Nutrition Survey for 2019-20 were released yesterday at a conference in Ha Noi.

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HÀ NỘI — The average height of Vietnamese people has increased significantly in the last decade, a survey has revealed.

The main findings of the National General Nutrition Survey for 2019-20 were released yesterday at a conference in Hà Nội.

The survey found that the average height of an 18-year-old Vietnamese male hit 168.1cm in 2020, a 3.7cm increase from 10 years earlier. The increase for 18-year-old women was slightly smaller at 1.4cm, rising from 154.8cm in 2010 to 156.2cm last year.

Director of the National Institute of Nutrition, Professor Lê Danh Tuyên, said the average Vietnamese person's diet had changed in the past 10 years. 

In 2020, the energy intake was 2023kcal on average per day, slightly higher than 1925 kcal per day in 2010.

The average consumption of fruits more than doubled from 2010 to 2020 and vegetable intake increased as well, but both were still well short of recommendations at 77.4 per cent and 66.4 per cent, respectively.

The survey also highlighted the increase in meat, sweetened beverage and fast food consumption, especially in urban areas.

The average Vietnamese person now consumes 136.4 grams of meat daily, compared to just 84 grams in 2010. The figure for urban areas is even larger at 155.3 grams per day.

Tuyên said the prevalence of stunting among children under the age of five was 19.6 per cent in 2020, below the 20 per cent threshold the World Health Organization classifies as medium stunting in a population, due to improved nutrition.

“After remarkably achieving the Millenium Develop Goal in 2008 by reducing the number of underweight children below the age of five by half by 2015, Việt Nam is now on course to achieve the Global Nutrition Target for children (reducing the stunting rate by 40 per cent in 2025 compared to 2012).

"However, there are still high variations of stunting prevalence between regions and the prevalence is still high in rural and mountainous areas,” said Tuyên.

The survey highlighted that among children aged five to 19 years old nationwide, the prevalence of stunting is 14.8 per cent compared to 23.4 per cent in 2010.

Triple burden

Notably, more than one in four urban children are overweight or obese, the survey found, with the average nationwide prevalence of 19 per cent, up from just 8.5 per cent in 2010.

"Việt Nam is facing a triple burden of nutrition, including stunting, overweight, obesity and micronutrient deficiency. The survey results show the need for urgent interventions as well as the need to review and improve approaches to improve the situation,” said Rana Flowers, UNICEF and Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN representative in Việt Nam.

Flowers said the survey was a rich source of data on age, gender, ethnicity, geographic area and socioeconomic status that can help ensure the new strategy targets for children and communities that may be left behind in general progress.

Deputy Minister of Health Đỗ Xuân Tuyên said the survey results will play an important role in evaluating the Goals of the National Strategy on Nutrition for 2011-20 and provide scientific evidence for the drafting of the National Strategy on Nutrition in the next phase.

Tuyên said priority should be given to improving essential nutrition for the first 1,000 days of a baby's life.

“More efforts are required to handle the situation of increasing overweight and obesity among children, youngster and adult people though as well as a strategic investment and system restructuring to ensure equity for ethnic and minority people and people living in difficult, remote and mountainous areas,” said Tuyên.

The National General Nutrition Survey was carried out with the participation of 22,400 households in 25 provinces and cities, representing six ecological regions across Việt Nam. — VNS