India ranks third and fifth from the bottom respectively among countries where 19-year-old girls and boys have a low body mass index, according to a study in The Lancet to be published on Friday. The study provides new estimates for height and BMI trends in 2019 across 200 countries after analysing data from 2,181 studies.
BMI is measured as the weight in kg divided by the square of the height in metres. World Health Organization guidelines define a normal BMI range as 18.5 to 24.9, overweight as 25 or higher, and obesity as 30 or higher.
The mean BMI of 19-year-old boys is 20.1 in India, compared to a high of 29.6 in the Cook Islands and a low of 19.2 in Ethiopia. For Indian girls, the mean BMI is again 20.1, compared to a high of 29.0 in Tonga and a low of 19.6 in Timor-Leste. The mean height of Indian 19-year-olds is 166.5 cm for boys and 155.2 cm for girls, well below the high of Netherlands boys (183.8 cm) and girls (170 cm).
The 20 cm or higher difference between countries with the tallest and shortest mean height represents approximately 8 years of growth gap for girls and approximately 6 years for boys. For example, 19-year-old girls in India have the same mean height as 12-year-old Dutch girls, said Prof Majid Ezzati, from Imperial College, London, and senior author of the study said.
The analysis charts child and adolescent physical growth trends over 35 years. “We used 115 data sources from India with over 2.1 million participants in the analysis,” Prof Ezzati said by email. “Both height and BMI have increased from 1985 to 2019 although there is still a great deal of potential for height while curbing any future rise in obesity so programmes targeted towards the poor from birth through school years are needed.” 📣 Express Explained is now on Telegram
“In developing countries like India, we have a dual burden i.e., overnutrition and undernutrition,” said Dr A Laxmaiah, head of the Public Health Nutrition division at the National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad. “The prevalence of overweight and obesity among adolescents of both Indian girls and boys is lower when compared to children of developed nations. The reasons could be several, like variations in the epigenetic, dietary intakes, familial, psychosocial, parental education, occupations, income etc,” Dr Laxmaiah said.
Dr Laxmaiah stressed the need for regular diet and nutrition surveys in India to avert the increase of overweight and obesity among children and adolescents. “Overweight and obesity are mostly carried over to adult age and are causes for many metabolic disorders like insulin resistance, diabetes, hypertension, CVDs, stroke, and some cancers.”
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