HCM CITY (VNS) — The nutrition of HCM City's residents, especially children, has improved, according to Thi Ngoc Diep, head of the city's Nutrition Centre.
Speaking at a conference on nutrition yesterday, she said that the city had carried out many intervention nutrition programmes at schools, health facilities and communities.
They included school lunches, and nutrition clubs and health counselling for mothers with babies, pregnant women, students, workers and obese and diabetic patients.
The city's prevalence of underweight (4.1 per cent) and stunted children under five years old (6.7 per cent) has declined over the last 25 years, and remained the lowest rate in the country. Last year, in the country as a whole, the rate was 15.3 per cent and 25.9 per cent, respectively, she said.
The city's prevalence was the same as developed countries, she added.
In addition, several severe clinical micronutrient deficiencies have been eradicated, such as exophthalmia and goiters.
However, the city is seeing an upward trend of obese and overweight children among children under five years old, she said, adding that the rate had risen three times over last 10 years, from 3.7 per cent in 2000 to 11.5 per cent last year.
Research showed that the main cause was diets high in fat and protein, but low in vitamins and micronutrients. A lack of exercise was also to blame.
For instance, a research study of dietary characteristics of 331 obese children aged 6 to18 in HCM City treated at the Nutrition Centre showed that the average protein intake of children was more than 150 per cent higher than the RDA (recommended daily allowance) set by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The average sodium intake was also very high, 2 to 2.5 times compared to the RDA, and the average fiber intake was less than 10 grammes each day.
Counselling on obesity prevention was still needed in the community, the centre said.
Children need to eat more vegetables, fruit, and milk and reduce sodium intake, and engage in physical activities, the centre's nutritionists said.
Nutritionist Nguyen Thanh Danh of the Nutrition Centre said that city authorities should create walking paths in the city for children and adults, and other places where physical activities can be enjoyed.
Danh said the Ministry of Health should work with the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism to develop sports and physical activity programmes.