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Dairy intake reduces childhood stunting

  • Staff Correspondent
  • 27 August, 2018 12:00 AM
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Dairy intake reduces childhood stunting

Dairy intake can reduce childhood stunting in Bangladesh, suggests a study.

The US-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) recently unveiled the study report where researchers mentioned that Bangladesh has  low levels of per capita milk consumption.

The social science researcher group also mentioned some factors, including severe land constraints and historical unavailability of milk in the South Asian region.

Dairy is high in all three macronutrients (energy, fat and protein), as well as important micronutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin B12, and calcium.

Milk consumption has a large impact on linear growth in the crucial first 1,000 days of an infant’s life, potentially reducing stunting by as much as 10.4 point among children in Bangladesh, according to the study.

Researchers’ analyses in this study corroborate that dairy consumption is most beneficial in this first 1,000 days period.

IFPRI Senior Research Fellow Derek Headey said,” Increasing access to dairy products can be extremely beneficial to the nutrition and long-term health of children 6-23 months of age when incorporated into a diet that includes good breastfeeding practices.”

Milk production and consumption have long been strongly linked to child growth in European and African populations, but little research has focused on Asian nations.

The study utilised the nationally representative Bangladesh Integrated Household Survey (BIHS) of rural areas over two rounds 2011/12 and 2015.

“This finding is especially important as growth faltering appears to be particularly pronounced from roughly 6 months of age to 20 months of age, a period that coincides with the introduction of complementary foods, such as rice, that are often low in protein and micronutrients that aid growth and development,” Headey, also the lead author of the study, said.

However, the study also finds some evidence that household dairy availability can have negative effects on breastfeeding in the first year of life.

Households that produce their own milk are 22 percentage points less likely to breastfeed their children in the first year of life, suggesting dairy-oriented nutrition strategies need to proactively promote exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months to prevent premature substitution into dairy.

“Our results provide a further rationale for utilising campaigns aimed at improving nutritional knowledge, especially the need to reduce the perception that dairy products can be a substitute for breast milk,” Headey, said.

Childhood under-nutrition is increasingly recognised as a significant global health problem and a major constraint to economic development.

Under-nutrition is associated with nearly 3.1 million childhood deaths and can impair cognitive and physical development in early childhood, as well as education and earnings later in life.