According to the new study, a global analysis of school-aged children’s height and weight, found skipping meals stunts kids’ growth.
We’ve all been in that situation as parents when we have a picky eater on our hands. Most of us at some point have probably said, “you better eat your vegetables or it will stunt your growth,” without knowing if there is actually any truth to it. Well, now we can say this phrase with confidence because a new study found that whenever kids have poor nutrition during the school years, it can lead to a 20-centimeter height gap across the nation.
According to the new study conducted by the Imperial College London, who completed a global analysis of school-aged children’s height and weight, they found that skipping out on nutrient-dense meals can actually cause kids to be shorter.
The study looked at data from 65 million children aged five to 19 years old in 193 countries around the world. It revealed that the height and weight of school-aged kids (which is an important marker for health and the quality of the diet they are eating), varies greatly from country to country.
The main takeaway was that there was a 20-centimeter difference between 19-year-olds in the tallest and shortest nations. Breaking things down further, this data represented an eight-year growth gap for girls and a six-year growth gap for boys. For example, they were able to pinpoint that the average 19-year-old girl in Bangladesh and Guatemala (the nations with the world’s shortest girls) comparable or the same to the average height on the average 11-year-old girl in the Netherlands, which is the nation with the tallest boys and girls.
Senior author of the study from Imperial’s School of Public Health, Professor Majid Ezzati shared that, “Children in some countries grow healthily to five years, but fall behind in school years. This shows that there is an imbalance between investment in improving nutrition in pre-schoolers, and in school-aged children and adolescents. This issue is especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic when schools are closed throughout the world, and many poor families are unable to provide adequate nutrition for their children.”
So then what do we do as a nation to make nutritious meals more accessible for everyone? Dr. Andrea Rodriguez Martinez, the lead author of the study from Imperial’s School of Public Health recommends that their findings should help to motivate various policies that reduce the cost of nutritious foods.
“These initiatives include food vouchers towards nutritious foods for low-income families and free healthy school meal programs which are particularly under threat during the pandemic. These actions would enable children to grow taller without gaining excessive weight, with lifelong benefits for their health and wellbeing.”
With both height and weight gain closely being linked to the quality of a child’s diet, it’s definitely important to make sure that our kids are eating a variety of foods on a daily basis.
Sources: Science Daily, Imperial College London
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