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Height and BMI Trends of 2019

  • 06 Nov 2020
  • 4 min read

Why in News

A recent study published in The Lancet, provides new estimates for height and Body Mass Index (BMI) trends in 2019 across 200 countries after analysing data from 2,181 studies.

  • Height and BMI are anthropometric measures of the quality of nutrition and healthiness of the living environment during childhood and adolescence and are highly predictive of health and developmental outcomes throughout life.
    • Anthropometry is the science of measuring the size and proportions of the human body.

Key Points

  • Both height and BMI have increased from 1985 to 2019 although there is still a great deal of potential for height while curbing any future rise in obesity.
  • The height and BMI trajectories over age and time of school-aged children are highly variable across countries, which indicates heterogeneous nutritional quality and lifelong health advantages and risks.
  • Body Mass Index:
    • It is measured as the weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in metres.
      • World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines define a normal BMI range as 18.5 to 24.9, overweight as 25 or higher, and obesity as 30 or higher.
    • India ranks third and fifth from the bottom respectively among countries where 19-year-old girls and boys have a low BMI.
    • The mean BMI of 19-year-old boys is 20.1 in India, compared to a high of 29.6 in the Cook Islands and a low of 19.2 in Ethiopia.
    • The mean BMI for 19-year-old Indian girls is again 20.1, compared to a high of 29.0 in Tonga and a low of 19.6 in Timor-Leste.
  • Height:
    • The 20 cm or higher difference between countries with the tallest and shortest mean height represents approximately 8 years of growth gap for girls and approximately 6 years for boys.
      • For example, 19-year-old girls in India have the same mean height as 12-year-old Dutch girls.
    • The mean height of Indian 19-year-olds is 166.5 cm for boys and 155.2 cm for girls, well below the high of Netherlands boys (183.8 cm) and girls (170 cm).
  • Analysis of India’s Situation:
    • In developing countries like India, there is a dual burden of overnutrition as well as undernutrition.
    • The prevalence of overweight and obesity among adolescents of both Indian girls and boys is lower when compared to children of developed nations.
    • There can be several reasons for this like variations in the epigenetic, dietary intakes, familial, psychosocial, parental education, occupations, income, etc.
      • Epigenetics literally means ‘above’ or ‘on top of’ genetics. It refers to external modifications to the Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) that turn genes ‘on’ or ‘off’.
      • These modifications do not change the DNA sequence, but instead, they affect how cells ‘read’ genes.
  • Suggestions:
    • There is a need for regular diet and nutrition surveys in India to avert the increase of overweight and obesity among children and adolescents.
      • Overweight and obesity are mostly carried over to adult age and are causes for many metabolic disorders like insulin resistance, diabetes, hypertension, CVDs, stroke, etc.
    • Programmes targeted towards the poor from birth through school years are needed.

Source: IE

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