Stunted growth, also known as stunting and nutritional stunting, is a reduced growth rate in human development. It is a primary manifestation of malnutrition (or more precisely under nutrition) and recurrent infections, such as diarrhoea and helminthiasis, in early childhood and even before birth, due to malnutrition during fetal development brought on by a malnourished mother. The definition of stunting according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) is for the “height for age” value to be less than two standard deviations of the WHO Child Growth Standards median.
Main causes of stunted growth are the feeding practises, maternal poor nutrition during pregnancy and lactation period, poor hygiene and Sanitation practises.
Malnutrition doesn’t only lead to decreased stature. Malnutrition increases the risk of dying from common infections, the frequency and severity of such infections and contributes to delayed recovery. According to UNICEF, the relationship between malnutrition and infection can create a potentially lethal cycle of worsening illness and deteriorating nutritional status.
The effects of stunting are lasting and generally irreversible, if not taken action on time.
Children come in all shapes and sizes. But if you’re noticing that your child is shorter than her friends at school, it’s natural to wonder, Is my child growing normally?
Slowed growth is not just a physical issue; it also impacts learning and development in childhood and adolescence. But it is also important to recognize that there are a lot of things that can impact a child’s height and growth rate.
This is why Paediatrics and Nutritionist use paediatric growth charts—series of curves that plot your child’s growth patterns along with large-scale population data—to make sure that your child is following a healthy growth pattern. Any sizeable dip in your child’s growth pattern may be a cause for concern.
By staying proactive, though, you can spot signs of slower growth in your child—and most importantly, catch him up to his healthiest potential through balanced nutrition.
Catch Your Child Up with “Growth Nutrients”
Growth requires energy, which is why underweight children need extra calories to overcome stunting. Add extra calories to those recommendations to help your child’s growth patterns get back on track, but make sure they’re not empty calories, healthy ways to increase your child’s caloric intake.
- Carbohydrates, Protein and Fat
Extra calories can help fuel growth, but it’s important to make sure those calories are coming from a healthy blend of carbohydrates, protein and fat.
During periods of growth, the body is highly dependent on iron, which helps to deliver oxygen to the body’s cells. Iron-rich foods include meat, seafood, beans, peas, fortified cereals and dark, leafy greens.
Increasing zinc intake can help underweight, pre-pubertal children catch up, according to a meta-analysis. Beef, spinach, shrimp and kidney beans are all solid sources of zinc.
- Vitamin D
Critical for the body’s absorption of calcium, the sunshine vitamin promotes healthy bone formation and growth. However, 40 percent of otherwise healthy infants and toddlers have sub-par vitamin D levels. You can help get your child’s levels where they need to be with extra outdoor playtime (sun exposure bolsters levels), D-rich foods such as milk/dairy and mushrooms and, if needed, supplementation.