A major project that aims to map global malnutrition trends has found that while India is home to third-highest number of obese people after the U.S. and China, 48 per cent of women of reproductive age and 59 per cent of children under the age of five are anaemic, and close to 48 per cent of children under the age of five are stunted.
Leading up to World Health Day on April 7, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) in partnership with Amway has launched the Malnutrition Mapping Project, which they describe as “A new education and advocacy tool that shows the multiple impacts of malnutrition around the world using global data from 30 low-, middle- and high-income countries.”
The aim of the study is to raise awareness of malnutrition in all its forms in the hope that that political, health and business leaders could then discuss, develop and ultimately implement policy solutions for this “preventable problem.”
Delving deep into the data for India, the GAIN-Amway project found that the country has over 58 million children under the age of five who were stunted and around 2.3 million children in the age cohort who were obese.
‘Vitamin, mineral deficiencies among major causes’
High among the causes of childhood malnutrition in India are vitamin and mineral deficiencies, as well as sub-optimal breastfeeding practices, according to the project.
The project report says the high proportion of anaemic women of reproductive age is linked to 62 per cent of children in the country showing insufficient vitamin A status, which raises the risk of decreased immune function, increased morbidity and mortality and blindness.
So far as breastfeeding was concerned, the project authors noted: “Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life followed by continued breastfeeding until two years of age and beyond gives babies the foundation for optimal health and development.”
The GAIN-Amway project highlighted the deleterious effects of this malnutrition status, arguing that several non-communicable diseases were associated with unhealthy diet, sedentary lifestyles and obesity in India, particularly cardiovascular disease has apparently emerged as the “biggest killer, attributed with 26 per cent of deaths.”
Further, under-nutrition in the form of stunting was associated with increased risk of nutrition-related non-communicable diseases when accompanied by excessive weight gain later in childhood, the report said.
It is also linked to high blood pressure, which is now a leading cause of death and a major risk factor for heart disease, according to the malnutrition mapping project, roughly 21 per cent for men and women.