While it’s not surprising to hear that premature babies have the potential for problems as they continue to develop, and decreased survival rates as a result, the same holds true for babies that are born small for their gestational age. Authors at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health analyzed studies to look at why children are still malnourished. They reviewed data from babies, kids, and pregnant mothers. The authors attribute the low birth weight to the mom’s undernutrition during pregnancy. Restricted growth during pregnancy is a common cause of newborn deaths, and babies that are small for their age are more likely to remain stunted, or short for their age, a year later.
A mom’s nutrition during pregnancy affects more than just her; it plays a vital role in the baby’s survival. Moms who become lacking in minerals like iron and calcium can be at risk for pregnancy complications like pre-eclampsia and anemia, which can lead to premature birth.
Poor nutrition doesn’t just affect pregnant women and babies, but children too. Kids who aren’t getting enough food and nutrients are at an increased risk for disease and can even struggle academically. This article estimates that 165 million children currently suffer from stunting, mean they are short for their age. 50 million were experiencing wasting, meaning their weight is too low for their height. 100 million were underweight. While the number of children with stunting is going down, the authors report it’s not fast enough to meet World Health Assembly goals. Almost half of all childhood deaths are attributed to malnutrition.
In a world where we hear about overweight and obesity over and over again, it’s hard to remember there’s another side of the story. Sometimes people are struggling with both obesity and undernutrition, making it an even harder problem to solve.