Developmental delay risk: New data shows lack of diet diversity among young Chinese

By Si Ying Thian

- Last updated on GMT

Only one-in-three rural Chinese youngsters have adequate diet diversity in early childhood leading to a high risk of developmental delays © Getty Images
Only one-in-three rural Chinese youngsters have adequate diet diversity in early childhood leading to a high risk of developmental delays © Getty Images

Related tags Diet diversity Protein Vitamins Nutrition Fiber complementary feeding childhood nutrition

Only one-in-three rural Chinese youngsters have adequate diet diversity in early childhood leading to a high risk of developmental delays, new data reveals.

There is a significant association between dietary diversity and developmental delay among children aged six to 23 months, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) classing diversity as a diet that contains five of the eight complementary food groups. 

They are (1) breastmilk, (2) grains, roots, and tubers, (3) legumes and nuts, (4) dairy products (milk, infant formula, yogurt, and cheese), (5) flesh foods (meat, fish, poultry, and liver/organ meats), (6) eggs, (7) vitamin A-rich fruits and vegetables, and (8) other fruits and vegetables.

A new study on children in rural China has found that dietary diversity was only present for 32.6% of those assessed, with many diets dominated by starch-based staple foods.

Additionally, there was lack of high-quality vegetables and fruits rich in Vitamin A, and a relatively low proportion of protein-rich meat.

The researchers pointed out two mechanisms at work where complementary feeding influences early childhood development:

“First, certain nutrients in complementary foods, such as long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAs) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), may alter cortical function maturation of the brain and play an important role in brain development.

“Second, neuropsychological studies have shown that rapid growth in early childhood makes the brain particularly susceptible to stimulation by the external environment. Different types of complementary foods can provide children with more gustatory and tactile stimulation, which in turn can influence their development.”

The study highlighted that the lack of ability to meet the dietary diversity needs of children could be explained by both the family’s economic status and its dependence on the village where they live for nutritional supplementation when the parents work away from home and cannot directly provide food for the children.

Children who have a wider variety of complementary foods, alongside adequate feeding frequency, were more likely to have better developmental results than those who did not.

Study design

The results were based on a community-based cross-sectional survey evaluating the health, nutrition, and developmental status of 1,631 children aged six to 23 months in 83 villages across Guangxi and Shanxi provinces in China.

Quantitative survey data was gathered through a five-pronged, structured, parent-completed Age and Stage Questionnaire, and analysed through a chi-squared test and multivariate logistic regression to explore the associated factors in early childhood development.

The questionnaires surveyed caregivers for the feeding practices of children, including whether they were bottle-fed, duration of breastfeeding, frequency of feeding, and the types of complementary foods consumed over the last 24 hours.

Aside from dietary diversity, other significant predictors for developmental delay include adequate feeding frequency (OR = 0.69, 95% CI = 0.52–0.90), and breastfeeding time and bottle feeding (OR = 0.66, 95% CI = 0.50–0.88).

The study is limited by the failure to account for the feeding interaction between caregiver and child, results were based on a self-reported 24-hours’ recall survey than a longitudinal review of children’s diets, and insufficient measurement of feeding practices such as focusing on only the breastfeeding duration.

The researchers pointed their study to set potential direction for early intervention and warranted for further longitudinal studies conducted around the hypotheses developed by this study around the influence mechanisms.


Source: frontiers

“The relationship between early childhood development and feeding practices during the dietary transitional period in rural China: a cross-sectional study”

Authors: Yihua, L., & Chang, C.

doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2023.1202712

Related news

Show more

Related products

show more

Nootropics Report 2.0: Brain Health Insights

Nootropics Report 2.0: Brain Health Insights

Content provided by dsm-firmenich | 22-Feb-2024 | Insight Guide

The brain health market is constantly growing and evolving, with more consumers looking for innovative ways to support total mind and body wellness.

Unlock the business potential of the protein trend

Unlock the business potential of the protein trend

Content provided by Valio | 24-Jan-2024 | White Paper

Read our white paper to learn how to overcome taste and texture challenges in protein products — and how to commercialise the protein trend by making delicious...

Immune Training for Everyday Health

Immune Training for Everyday Health

Recorded the 30-Aug-2023 | Webinar

It is relatively well understood that the immune system remembers the bacteria and viruses that it has previously encountered, protecting us when we come...

Related suppliers

Follow us


View more


Nutra Champions Podcast

Nutra Champions Podcast