Child obesity soaring in Vietnam with urban youngsters at highest risk

By Lester Wan

- Last updated on GMT

Significantly more children were overweight and obese in urban than in rural schools. ©GettyImages
Significantly more children were overweight and obese in urban than in rural schools. ©GettyImages

Related tags Obesity

Childhood obesity is rapidly increasing in Vietnam with a new study revealing that 11.2% of youngsters aged six to 10 are overweight and 10.1% obese.

A further 19.9% of the children examined in Hai Phong City had high abdominal adiposity.

These statistics showed a significant increase from the year 2000, where the prevalence of overweightness and obesity combined was 10.4%.

A total of 276 children, from an urban and a rural primary school participated in the study.

Data on weight, height and waist circumference was used to calculate Body Mass Index (BMI), and data on waist-height ratio was used to determine the proportion of children who were overweight, obese or had high central adiposity (abdominal fat). Information on diet, physical activity and socioeconomic status of families was collected using questionnaires.

Urban issue

In Vietnam, childhood obesity has been rapidly increasing. In 1995, the prevalence of childhood obesity among primary school children in Ho Chi Minh City was only 1.4%. Similarly, in Hai Phong City, the number of children suffering from overweightness and obesity has grown rapidly.

The recent rates of overweightness and obesity reported in Hai Phong City were higher than the figures in Hanoi City, Binh Thuan province and in Ho Chi Minh City.

There were significantly more children classified as overweight and obese and with high abdominal adiposity in urban areas.

The findings are further evidence for the need for interventions targeting primary school children to prevent obesity and its complications from occurring earlier in life, said researchers.              

Calcium lacking

They also found that overweightness and obesity were significantly more prevalent in boys than in girls. According to the researchers, in Vietnam, society typically places more importance on males compared to females, resulting in boys being fed and taken care of better.

They stated that this was indicated in the study, where boys consumed a greater variety of foods than girls.

Additionally, the children in the study were overconsuming salt (6.8g/day). Overweight children in particular, consumed nearly 8.5g/day, which is 200% of the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) Vietnam recommendation for salt consumption (4-5g/day) for children aged six to 10 years old.

Together with excessive weight, high salt intake could potentially increase their risk of hypertension much earlier in life, particularly if the intake is habitual.

Furthermore, only half of the sample consumed dairy foods on a daily basis by. Therefore, calcium intake was also lower than recommended. In the long term, this can impact their growth and bone development.

“Future interventions should target parents and their children by providing both with educational modules centred on healthy eating habits, parental feeding practices and strategies for increasing physical activity,” ​the authors recommended.

Source: Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition

DOI: 10.6133/apjcn.062017.08

“Childhood overweight and obesity amongst primary school children in Hai Phong City, Vietnam”

Authors: Hoang Thi Duc Ngan, Le Danh Tuyen, Pham Van Phu and Smita Nambiar.

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