Why poor diets can cause school-age children to be 20cm shorter

Research into global height variations places the UAE mid-range

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, August 30, 2020.  Children return to school on Sunday after months off due to the Covid-19 pandemic at the Brighton College, Abu Dhabi.
Victor Besa /The National
Section:  NA
Reporter:  Haneen Dajani
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Poor diets among school-age children in some countries can cause them to be 20 centimetres shorter in height then those elsewhere, a study has revealed.

Researchers tracked changes in height and weight of 65 million people aged five to 19 from more than 2,000 studies between 1985 to 2019.

The study, published in medical journal The Lancet, found that the Netherlands had the tallest 19-year-old boys in 2019 at an average of 6 foot. Southeast Asian country Timor-Leste had the shortest boys, at 5 feet 3 inches.

The study also showed whether children and teenagers were at a healthy weight for their height.

“Growth and development through childhood and adolescence are affected by social, nutritional, and environmental factors at home, at school, and in the community,” the study said.

“During school ages (typically 5 to 19 years), these factors amplify or mitigate adversity in infancy and early childhood and, if healthy, can help consolidate gains from early childhood and correct some nutritional inadequacies and imbalances.

“Therefore, investing in the nutrition of school-aged children and adolescents is crucial for a healthy transition to adulthood.”

UAE figures revealed that women aged 19 had an average height of 5’3”, a number that has not changed much since 1985. Five-year-old girls measured an average of 3.9ft.

Men in the UAE aged 19 had an average height of 5.7ft and five-year-olds were nearly 4.2ft.

The body mass index was also measured. A figure above 25 is considered overweight and less than 18.5 is underweight.

Girls aged 19 in the UAE had an average BMI of 25.1 and five-year-olds were at 19.6.

Adolescent boys were overweight, with an average BMI of 27.2.

While, the average for the age of 5 was 21.3.

Children and teens growing up in north-western and central Europe are the tallest in the world and the shortest are living in South, Southeast Asia, Latin America and East Africa.

Countries with the highest BMIs for boys aged 19 were Cook Islands (29.6), Naura (29.5), Tuvalu (28.2) and Niue (28.1).

Ones with the lowest were Ethiopia (19.2), Niger (19.8), Congo (19.9) and Senegal (20.1)

Countries with 19-year-old girls that had the highest BMIs were Tonga (29.0), Cook Islands (28.9), Nauru (28.6) and Niue (28.3).

The lowest were in Timor-Leste (19.6), Romania (19.9), India (20.1) and Vietnam (20.4).

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