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Wealthy kids have worse nutrition -report
Updated: 2005-01-07 00:21

A Chinese study has found that children from wealthy families are more likely to suffer bad nutrition than those from low-income homes, partly because they eat more fast food, state media said on Friday.

"Children from high-income families are inclined to eat more fast food because the pace of life of their parents is rapid and they ignore a balanced diet," the Beijing Evening Post said.

"Another possibility is that their parents believe that the more expensive food is, the more nutritious it is. So they are prone to choose foods that lack in nutrition," it said.

As Chinese have become richer amid two decades of economic reforms, demand for meat has soared and many can now afford Western-style fast food.

The study of 8,000 children below the age of 6 was carried out in 10 cities over the course of 18 months. It was conducted by the National Working Committee on Children and Women and the China National Children's Center.

"As to the food mix and eating habits, rich families should follow the example set by low-income families," an expert was quoted as saying.

Importance of child nutrition stressed

Chinese parents are being urged to pay more attention to their children's nutrition, after a study revealed that unscientific ways of feeding babies and a lack of trace elements are the two biggest threats to youngsters' health.

The study shows 37 per cent of surveyed children have baby food earlier than the recommended age of four to six months old, with another 35 per cent taking it later, which in return brings about a nutritional abundance or deficiency as these children grow up.

"Our children above four to six months old lag behind foreign children in terms of their physical well-being, although they boast the same quality below the age of four months," said Zhao Shunyi, head of the children's centre.

She called on Chinese parents to pay more attention to their children's nutrition after they stop breast-feeding at six months old.

Trace elements

The survey also shows more than half of the children above six months old are deficient in five trace elements which are crucial to their physical development - magnesium, copper, calcium, iron and zinc.

"Lack of zinc will lead to low level of intelligence; while our children are also risking serious anaemia because of iron deficiency," said Dou Xiaowei, vice-director of the National Centre for Child Nutrition Quality Supervision and Testing.

"Parents should notice that the metabolic rate of children is 15 per cent higher than that of adults. They need a large quantity of different nutrients," said Zhao.

"They'd better choose such baby food with plentiful trace elements, especially calcium, iron and zinc."

Children from families who spend less than 1,000 yuan a month on their children's food are found to have more complete and sufficient trace elements than those from families that spend more.

"It may be because those higher-income families choose more junk food and fast food for their children," said Dou.

Zhao said the centre is urging the central government to enforce child food production management and supervision via revising related laws.

"Child food producers should be advised to market products with rich trace elements," said she.

Dou added there will be some major changes in this regard in the next two years.

The centre plans to conduct a similar survey among rural children soon since "a majority of the 367 million children in China live in rural areas," said Dou.

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