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Over 40% of Malaysian School Children are deficient in essential nutrients

A recent study from Khazanah Research Institute found that children in Malaysia suffer from the double burden of malnutrition and obesity. The same report suggests that many children do not meet the recommended intake of important nutrients. By contrast, consumption of fast food, which typically has adverse nutritional consequences, is common.

Figure 1: Percentage of school-going aged children meeting at least 80% of the required nutrients.

A study of school children aged 6 to 17 conducted by the Nutrition Society of Malaysia (2015) found that 2 in 5 children do not meet at least 80% of the values prescribed in the ‘Recommended Nutrient Intake for Malaysians’ for thiamine and vitamin C. Furthermore 70% of girls and 60% of boys did not have the recommended calcium intake – a massive proportion.

Deficiencies of essential micronutrients undermine the health of children, adversely affecting their learning. For example, anaemia causes children to feel tired and weak, hampering their ability to pay attention in class (UNICEF, 2019).

Why is Nutrition so important for kids?

For children, rapid growth demands good nutrition. Undernutrition affects how children grow and develop and are associated with impaired cognitive function, higher school absenteeism and poor school performance. Severe undernutrition can lead to stunting.

A study conducted in Malaysia (2017) concluded that 8.2% of school-going children aged 10 to 17 years were stunted, i.e., too short for their age.

Figure 2: Prevalence of stunting among school-going children aged 10-17 by level/grad

The study also showed an increasing prevalence of stunting with age, from 8.3% for 10- year-olds to 10.2% for 17-year-olds.

This report would suggest children are not eating correctly at an early age, and that eating habits are getting worse as the kids get older.

Developing good eating habits early is easier than breaking bad eating habits later

Malaysia requires interventions at schools to address the nutrition problems mentioned in this blog, namely the poor eating habits of children which are leading to malnutrition.

However, habits are insanely difficult to break. This is because when we form and repeat habits, the chemical dopamine is released to the brain, causing a feeling of pleasure and a strengthened habit.

This is exactly why Vircle believes children should form healthy eating habits at an early age. Vircle believes that parents and teachers should take advantage of a child’s formative years and nurture good eating habits that will provide them with a strong foundation for their lives ahead.

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