Nearly half of the children under five years of age in India have stunted growth mainly because of zinc, iron and vitamin A deficiency, according to a new study.
Anaemia affects 79 per cent of children in the lowest wealth quintile and 64 per cent in the highest wealth quintile, the analytical study by medical journal Lancet's series on maternal and child under-nutrition said.
While a host of issues like lack of or no breastfeeding, contributed to these severe conditions, deficiency of zinc or vitamin A is the major factor, according to Dr Robert Black of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Maryland, who is one of the compilers of the series.
In India, for example, around 30-40 per cent of children have zinc and vitamin A deficiency, Dr M K Bhan, secretary, department of biotechnology said. The reason for this can be found in the diet patterns in India, with many people being vegetarians.
Black said apart from boosting nutrition levels, zinc has been found to be a major help in tackling diarrhoea. "If given till two weeks, then we can prevent recurrence of the disease in children."
Bhan said in most Indian households, it was more a problem of knowledge than poverty and thus the problem could be solved if a publicity campaign was launched.
A major fallout of the under-nutrition till two years of age is that the children develop lifestyle diseases like diabetes and heart problems, he said.