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Over-weight babies worry expert

Published:Monday | November 18, 2013 | 12:00 AM

Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer

Acting director, nutrition in the Ministry of Health, Deon Bent, is urging policy makers to become more concerned about the three faces of malnutrition - undernutrition, overnutrition and hunger - facing Jamaica.

Bent has warned that a failure to address the situation could have serious implications for stability.

"When you get to the child-bearing years, if under-nutrition is presenting itself, you'll find that these women give birth to children who have low birth rates, who also enter life with a number of other health challenges.

"These will perpetuate into adulthood, where they will not be able to achieve their full potential in terms of learning and productivity and then what you'll have is a cycle of inter-generational poverty," Bent told the World Food Day National Ceremony and Exhibition at Greater Portmore High School in St Catherine, recently.

According to Bent, while there have been some gains with the country recording a decline in undernutrition.

She explained: "We are now down to about 3.3 per cent (in terms of undernutrition) with only 0.1 per cent being severe. I am happy to say that 90 per cent of our children in the 0-3 years age group have appropriate weight for their age.

"However, there is some amount of micronutrient deficiency, and that is mostly iron, in our pre-school and school-aged children.

"We find that about five out of every 10 pre-schoolers have lower levels of iron in the blood and two out of every three school-aged child also have this problem."

The health expert declared that Jamaica faces another nightmare, an explosion of overnutrition.

"In the 0-3 years group, we find that almost about six out of every 10 children in that age group have high weight for their age. As we step up the line and look at the 6-10, we are finding that about 11 per cent have too much weight for the height they are at, and seven per cent have far too much weight. They are obese for the height that they are at.

"And if you look at the 10-15 (age group), the prevalence is still there - four per cent being obese, seven per cent being overweight, and there is also a six per cent who are underweight," Bent shared.

Bent identified the ingestion of sweetened beverages as a major factor, with seven out of every 10 children in the 13-15 age group consuming it in some form at least once per week.

For teens between 15 and 19, the prevalence goes up at a highly increased rate with four out of every 20 being overweight.