What is stunted growth? | Causes and Treatment | Nutrition

Stunted growth

What is stunted growth?

Stunted growth occurs when a child does not reach the expected height or weight for her/ his age. It can lead to long-term health problems, including difficulties that affect both physical and mental development. It is caused by malnutrition, repeated infections, or, in some cases, both.

In the study, babies who received a daily egg also ate less sugary foods, such as sweets and cakes. This suggests that eating eggs could help reduce childhood obesity. We don’t know if the results would apply to children in the UK or in other parts of the world, where stunting is much less common.

Previous fears about salmonella in eggs may have discouraged some people from giving eggs to young children, but advice from the Food Standards Agency says chicken eggs produced in the UK under the Lion brand scheme have a “very low” risk, even for pregnant women and young children. Babies should be exclusively breastfed until they are about 6 months old. Crushed hard-boiled eggs can be offered to babies when they are 6 to 8 months old.

Symptoms of stunted growth

If your child is younger than other children on his age, he may have a growth problem. It is generally considered a medical problem if they are under 95 per cent of the children their age and their growth rate is slow. Stunted growth can also be diagnosed in a child whose height is within the normal range, but whose growth rate has slowed. Depending on the underlying cause of their growth failure, they may have other symptoms:

  • If they have certain forms of dwarfism, the size of their arms or legs may be out of proportion to their torso.
  • If they have low levels of the hormone thyroxine, they may have a loss of energy, constipation, dry skin, dry hair, and trouble staying warm.
  • If they have low levels of growth hormone (GH), this can affect the growth of their face and make them look abnormally young.
  • If your growth postponement is caused by stomach or bowel disease, you may have blood in your stools, diarrhoea, constipation, vomiting, or nausea.

Stunted growth causes

Stunting causes irreversible physical and mental damage to children. A stunted child is too short for his/ her age, does not develop fully, and stunted growth reflects chronic malnutrition during the most critical periods of growth and development in the early years of life. It is defined as the percentage of children, 0 to 59 months, whose height-for-age is less than two standard deviations (moderate and severe growth retardation) and less than three standard deviations (severe growth retardation) from the median WHO Child Growth Standards.

In India, 35% of children under the age of five are stunted, a manifestation of chronic malnutrition. Stunting and other procedures of malnutrition are believed to be responsible for nearly half of all child deaths internationally (Source: CNNS 2016-18).

Risk factors for stunting

Stunting is the severe shortening of length in young children (or height in older children) to less than 2 normal nonconformities below age-specific medians. It has important consequences for the health of more than 178 million children in developing countries who experience a fourfold increase in mortality before the age of 5.

It is well known that a stunted child does not develop properly and that a population with a high percentage of stunted children does not achieve optimal levels of physical and intellectual growth and development.

These children also do not show normal rates of expected economic growth and productivity, earning on average one-fifth less than their non-stunted peers. Areas affected by widespread stunting can experience a national reduction in GDP of up to 3% to 6%.

The effect of stunted growth

  • Children who are stunted or wasted are more likely to suffer from health problems and be at risk for diet-related diseases and conditions.
  • But stunting not only affects a child’s health, but it also inhibits their future development.
  • Children who are stunted may never reach their full height or develop their full cognitive potential.
  • 43 per cent of children under the age of five in low- and middle-income countries are at high risk of poverty due to stunting (Richter, Daelmans, Lombardi, et al. 2017).
  • Stunted children earn 20 per cent less as adults than their non-stunted counterparts (Grantham-McGregor, Cheung, Cueto, et al. 2007)
  • Mothers affected by malnutrition are more likely to have children who are stunted or wasted, perpetuating the cycle of poverty and malnutrition (Ozaltin, Hill, and Subramanian 2010).

How do we prevent stunted growth?

There is no simple solution to prevent stunting.

However, focusing on what is commonly known as the first 1,000 days, the window of time between a mother’s pregnancy and her child’s second birthday is a key opportunity to ensure the healthy development of children throughout the world.

While the amount of food is a big piece of the puzzle, a diversified diet can be just as important, if not more. Treating malnutrition, even in children older than 2 years, with ready-to-use therapeutic food (RTAF) can have a positive impact on rates of stunting.

What are growth disorders?

However, teens can have growth problems for other reasons. Growth is controlled by hormones made by the body. Many diseases of the endocrine system, which is complete up of glands that produce hormones, can affect development.

Hormones are secreted by the endocrine glands and carried throughout the body in the bloodstream. The hypothalamus (part of the brain) controls the pituitary gland, which in turn announcements some of the hormones that switch growth and sexual development. Estrogen and testosterone are important hormones that drive sexual expansion and function and also produce a role in growth.

Hypothyroidism can cause slow growth because the thyroid gland does not make enough thyroid hormone, which is necessary to maintain normal growth. A main symptom of hypothyroidism is feeling tired or sluggish. A blood test that measures thyroid levels can show if someone has this disorder, which can develop at any time in life and is common in adolescent girls and women of childbearing age.

Some diseases are not caused by hormones, but they can affect the body’s ability to make the hormones necessary for growth and development. For instance, Turner syndrome is a genetic condition (due to a problem with a person’s genes) that happens in girls. It is caused by a missing or abnormal X chromosome. Girls with Turner syndrome tend to be short and do not usually have normal sexual development because their ovaries (organs in the lower abdomen that produce eggs and female hormones) do not mature or function normally.

An additional disorder that can lead to significant short stature is dwarfism. Dwarfism is the result of abnormal growth of bones and cartilage in the body. In many forms of dwarfism, the person has abnormal body proportions, such as notably short limbs. Most cases of dwarfism are genetic.

Coping with growth disorders

It can be difficult to have a growth disorder as a teenager because it can affect a person’s body image and self-esteem. Talking to a mental health professional is one of the ways some teens cope with feelings and concerns about their growth.

Your doctor can also be a good reserve for advice on your development pattern. And while no one has much control over the changes that occur in your body during puberty, you can do what you can to keep your body in the tip-top figure by eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and exercising.

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