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Micronutrient Deficiency Causes Stunted Growth in Vietnamese Youth

by Iam Sann
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About 9.5 per cent of children under five years old in Việt Nam have preclinical vitamin A deficiency (no signs of disease) and 58 per cent have zinc deficiency. Micronutrient deficiency affects children’s development, limiting height and physical strength in adulthood.

Zinc deficiency in the body will affect growth, causing malnutrition and stunting. Micronutrient deficiency is the main cause of short stature in Vietnamese youth, according to experts from the Institute of Nutrition.

The National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) presented this information at a meeting on micronutrient deficiency prevention held on November 28.

According to the National Nutrition Census conducted by the NIN in 2020, the rate of child malnutrition across the country had decreased rapidly and sustainably, of which the rate of underweight malnutrition decreased from 33.8 per cent in 2000 to 14.1 per cent in 2015 and to only 11.6 per cent in 2020.

However, the rate of stunting in children under five years old was still high, at 19.6 per cent, according to the 2020 National Nutrition Census, with a notable gap between regions, especially mountainous regions compared to urban and rural areas.

In addition, the rate of overweight and obesity in school-aged children (five to 19 years old) increased from 8.5 per cent in 2010 to 19 per cent in 2020.

Việt Nam has eliminated the situation of blindness due to vitamin A deficiency. In addition, serum vitamin A deficiency (in the blood), iron deficiency anaemia and other micronutrient deficiencies are increasingly improving.

“However, Việt Nam is facing three nutritional burdens, including malnutrition coexisting with micronutrient deficiency and overweight and obesity, along with the increasing trend of non-communicable diseases,” said NIN deputy director Trương Tuyết Mai.

“The main cause of this situation is people’s inadequate nutrition (consuming a lot of meat, not eating enough vegetables) and lack of physical activity.”

Dr. Trần Khánh Vân, Head of the Department of Micronutrients, NIN, said that 2020 research data in Việt Nam also found zinc deficiency in 63 per cent of pregnant women and 44.3 per cent of women of childbearing age. This makes newborns susceptible to zinc deficiency.

In addition, micronutrient deficiency also negatively affects health, physical development, stature and intelligence, hindering the growth and comprehensive development of children; affecting fertility as well as labour productivity in adulthood, according to Vân.

Therefore, the prevention of micronutrient deficiency needs to be carried out in a sustainable way. For each person, micronutrient supplementation needs to be done throughout their life cycle, from infancy and childhood, school-age children, adolescents, adults and the elderly.

NIN experts recommend families eat a variety of foods to supplement the micronutrients found in food. For young children, if growth is slow, they need to be examined early.

Parents use foods rich in micronutrients available locally for their children’s daily complementary meals; add fat or cooking oil to enhance absorption of vitamin A and vitamin D. Children six to 59 months old should take vitamin A twice a year and children from 24 to 59 months old need to take deworming medicine twice a year.

Practice food hygiene, personal hygiene and environmental hygiene to prevent worm infections. In addition, women of childbearing age and pregnant women need to take iron/folic acid tablets or multi-micronutrient tablets.

NIN will deploy the second phase of the national vitamin A supplementation campaign on December 1. More than 6 million children aged from 6 months to 59 months old will be provided with high doses of vitamin A in more than 11,000 communes and wards nationwide.

In June, 2.7 million (99 per cent) children aged between 3-35 months in 41 provinces and cities were given vitamin A in the first phase of the campaign. And 2.2 million (99.1 per cent) children 3-59 months old received vitamin A in 22 provinces and cities across the country.

Every year, through two campaigns to supplement vitamin A for children nationwide, the rate of children receiving vitamin A regularly is maintained at over 98 per cent (equivalent to more than six million children from six months to 59 months old)

Source: Vietnam News

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