Vietnamese lagging behind in stature due to poor diets

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

Related tags: Soft drinks, Nutrition

Unbalanced diets with too much sugar and salt and too few vegetables have been blamed for the substandard stature of Vietnamese people.

According to Le Bach Mai, deputy director of Vietnam’s National Institute of Nutrition, increasingly poor dietary habits has limited people’s intake of calcium, which is needed for growth, to just 50-60% of recommended levels. The country’s current average calcium intake, at around 500mg per person per day, has hardly changed since 1985.

Mai’s analysis was prompted by a national report which found that the average height of male Vietnamese youths— 164.4cm—was 13cm lower than the global average, while female youths were 10cm lower at an average of 153.4cm.

Rather than consuming food high in calcium, Vietnamese now have a growing preference for white bread, instant noodles, pastry and confectionery, and had also developed a thirst for soft drinks, Mai said.

Vietnamese children prefer soft drinks to water, and even opt for sweetened milk when they have to drink milk​,” she said. “This is a very different habit from that of children in other countries​.”

Many families let their kids drink carbonated soft drinks whenever they want, unaware that each can of soft drink contains from 36 to 63 grams of sugar, while the recommended intake of sugar is only 20 grams a day for a single person​.”

Overconsumption of salt—on average three times in excess of recommended levels—is also becoming a significant health issue, Mai said, as is vitamin D deficiency in a country where only one in eight people meet required levels.

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