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Children's health

Nutrition Provides Key to Preventing Needless Deaths of Kids World-Wide

Thursday, February 28, 2008 by: Sherry Baker, Health Sciences Editor
Tags: children's health, health news, Natural News

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(NewsTarget) One-third of stunted growth and a quarter of deaths among under 3 year-olds in poor countries could be prevented, according to a new paper published in the British medical journal Lancet (1). Is the solution better drugs? More vaccinations? Greater access to surgery and high tech medical tests? No.

Instead, according to Professor Simon Cousens, of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, who headed the research, the answer is simply good nutrition, including feeding infants with nature's perfect food for them – breast milk.

Currently, about 178 million children under five are stunted, most living in sub-Saharan Africa and south-central Asia. The health of another 19 million children is damaged by severe and acute malnutrition.

Although stunting of growth is difficult to reverse after the age of 3, it is almost always avoidable with adequate nutrition for pregnant mothers and babies age 2 and younger, the researchers point out. Their study also documents how historical records link improvements in nutrition in developed countries to normal stature, better living standards, reduced disease exposure and education.

So how can nutrition be improved to help children at risk of health-robbing malnutrition? Cousens points out that in the past, most programs that tried to help focused on foods that would promote weight gain rather than linear growth (a normal increase in stature). Instead, the British researchers are calling for simple, evidenced-based nutrition strategies including improved complementary feeding, micronutrient and other nutritional supplements, and the promotion of breastfeeding.

The researchers add that if women received adequate calcium, iron and folic acid during pregnancy, around 100,000 maternal deaths (24% of the total) could be prevented as well as 3.12 million Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs, a term scientists use to describe the number of years of potential life lost due to premature death and the years of productive life lost due to disability).

While the Lancet paper discusses the health risks of poor nutrition for children in underdeveloped countries, youngsters in rich western nations are currently facing another kind of nutrition and lifestyle crisis that could also result in countless DALYs – an epidemic of obesity.

According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), an estimated 17 percent of children and adolescents ages 2-19 years of age are overweight. That, says the CDC, puts them at risk for high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, stroke, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis and gallbladder disease as they grow older.

What's more, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports type 2 diabetes, caused by overeating and under exercising, is now increasingly being diagnosed in children, something unheard of only a few decades ago. About 177,000 young people under 20 years of age in the U.S. now have the disease.

References:

1. (http://www.lshtm.ac.uk/publications/list.php...)

About the author

Sherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA’s "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine’s "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic’s "Men’s Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.

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