Stunting is a condition when children experience growth and development problems early in life, which can be caused by poor nutritional intake.
Nutrition has a vital role to play in supporting children’s growth and development, especially if your little one is stunted. The impact of stunting on children cannot be underestimated. Furthermore, here are some of the effects of stunting and the role of nutrition in children that you need to know.
Recognizing the detrimental effects of child stunting
Based on data from WHO , there are approximately 144 million children under 5 years of age who are stunted worldwide. Often, stunting occurs in the first 1000 days of a child’s life .
Stunting not only affects the health of the child, such as making it easier for him to get sick, but also on physical and mental development.
Reporting from Powerofnutrition.org , the impact of stunting is divided into two, namely:
- Short-term impact: Suboptimal brain growth, for example, results in a low IQ and a weak immune system.
- Long-term impact : Short age, having a smaller stature, and a higher risk of developing diseases such as diabetes and cancer.
Not only that, because stunting can affect brain growth, children’s learning or cognitive skills and abilities are also affected. A 2017 study found that children who are stunted due to poor nutritional intake have relatively difficulty learning when they are older or in the future.
Therefore, it is important to know that nutrition is the main asset for children’s growth and development early in life.
Reducing the impact of stunting on children with nutritional intake
Reporting from the official UNICEF website , children need around 40 different types of nutrition to grow, develop and stay healthy. This requires a balanced diet, including milk, plant and animal source foods , as well as food sources that have been fortified or have been supplemented with nutrients.
The problem is, it’s not easy to always fulfill this need. Therefore, foods specially formulated to make up for the nutrient deficiency on a daily basis can be used.
A 2019 study on how to improve the nutritional status of children who are stunted describes several nutrients that children should fulfill every day.
Vitamin A plays an important role in the growth of children and both are mutually sustainable. Vitamin A deficiency can cause growth problems.
Increasing the intake of vitamin A in children between the ages of six months and five years can reduce the risk of death by 12 percent, diarrhea by 15 percent, and gradually reduce the chance of the child being stunted.
Vitamin A has been known to benefit eye health or vision in children. In fact, lack of vitamin A intake is one of the preventable causes of blindness in children . Another benefit that is no less important is that this vitamin plays a role in supporting the immune system or the immune system in preventing various infections that cause disease.
One way to increase your intake of vitamin A is by supplementation such as growth milk . Vitamin A can be found in two categories of food sources, namely animal sources such as milk, fish and meat; and plant sources such as green leafy vegetables, carrots, sweet potatoes, and mangoes.
The main role of zinc is to support normal growth and development of children to reduce the effects of stunting. Zinc plays an important role in the synthesis of RNA and DNA and is also associated with vitamin A metabolism.
Several studies published on the WHO online page analyzed the function of zinc in growing children. Broadly speaking, it can be concluded that children who received additional zinc intake of 10 mg per day for 24 weeks helped encourage the growth of the child’s height to 0.37 (± 0.25) cm compared to those who did not. In addition, zinc supplementation can have a greater impact on children who are stunted.
The most common form of zinc supplementation is milk. In addition, zinc can certainly be found in several food sources such as eggs, meat, chicken and nuts such as kidney beans.
Micronutrients with omega-3
The combination of micronutrients and omega-3s has clearly been found to reduce the incidence of stunting in children. The micronutrients referred to are Docosahexaenoic acid or commonly known as DHA and Arachidonic acid (AA) which are essential for children’s development.
One way to increase micronutrient intake for children is to provide growth milk. This is evidenced by two studies which showed that a group of children who received additional micronutrients from milk showed a reduction in the incidence of stunting and underweight by up to 10%.
As previously explained, one of the effects of stunting in the long term is suboptimal growth in height and weight.
Based on a 2011 study on the effects of whey and casein in milk on growing children, whey protein has the potential to increase muscle mass and is of better quality than casein.
For this reason, whey protein contained in growth milk can be part of an effort to reduce the impact of stunting by increasing optimal body growth.
Stunting in children can have negative effects in the present and in the future. Therefore, you need to try to reduce this impact by meeting the nutritional needs of children every day.
Choose a healthy and balanced diet and add growth milk to a diet that contains a variety of nutrients, including those described above. You are of course always advised to see a medical professional or doctor if you need guidance if you find your little one is stunted.