Vietnamese children either underweight or obese, many lack vitamins

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A student girl is given vitamin drops. Photo courtesy of Tuoi Tre

More than half of children in Vietnam lack basic vitamins and iron while many are either under- or overweight, a new survey said, blaming the nation's strange nutritional situation on parents' skewed priorities.

The children suffer a deficiency in vitamins A, B1, C, and D and iron and every one in three or four of them are in "unusual nutrition status," according to the survey conducted by the Health Ministry's National Nutrution Institute in Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, the Tien Phong (Vanguard) newspaper reported.

Conducted between 2010 and 2012 on 16,744 children from six months to 12 years old including 2,880 in Vietnam, the survey found Vietnam had the worst nutrition figures among the four countries.

Le Nguyen Bao Khanh from the institute said the survey gave Vietnam a chance to compare its nutritional situation with nearby countries considering socio-economic situation, exercise and eating habits, as well as children's diets including their levels of vitamins, calcium, and their development.

Experts called Vietnam's a "double nutrition problem."

The survey found more children in rural areas are underweight, at a rate of 20.8 percent, while the rate in the city was 10.8 percent.

Obese children in cities were found at a rate five times that of the rural rate 29 percent to 5.5 percent.

Nearly half of boys and more than 58 percent of girls in cities lack vitamin D, so do 47 percent of children in rural areas, while the rates of children with iron deficiencies varied in ages and peaked at those between six months old and two years old - 25.9 percent in cities and 54.3 percent in rural areas.

Khanh said many parents still have many unhealthy childrearing habits, such as keeping children in dark rooms and depriving them of vitamin D while giving them the risk of suffering rickets and weak, poor skin.

She said 20 percent of vitamin D in the body comes from meals and the rest from sunlight. "We need to warn mothers of their childcare measures. Many keep their children indoors during the first year, especially the first three months. It's not a good habit."

Children born in wealthier families meanwhile have the tendency to be overweight, she said, adding that breast milk during early life helps prevent obesity.

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