What are the contributing factors to stunted growth in children living at high altitudes in India?

What are the contributing factors to stunted growth in children living at high altitudes in India?

## Living at High Altitudes Linked to Increased Risk of Stunting in Children in India

Stunting, a debilitating condition caused by chronic malnutrition, affects over a third of Indian children under the age of five. While the government has implemented numerous programs to combat this issue, a new study published in BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health sheds light on a concerning factor contributing to stunting in India: living at high altitudes.

High-Altitude Hypoxia and Reduced Appetite

At high altitudes, the air is thinner, leading to reduced oxygen levels. This chronic exposure to low oxygen levels, known as hypoxia, can suppress appetite, hindering children’s ability to consume sufficient nutrients.

Impaired Nutrient Absorption

Hypoxia also affects the absorption of nutrients from food. The reduced oxygen levels impair the function of enzymes and transporters involved in nutrient absorption, leading to deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals.

Food Insecurity and Limited Healthcare Access

High-altitude regions often face food insecurity due to harsh climates and lower crop yields. Access to healthcare facilities is also limited in these areas, making it difficult for children to receive proper nutrition and medical care.

Maternal Education and Birth Order

The study found that children born to mothers with no schooling were more than twice as likely to be stunted compared to those with educated mothers. The birth order also played a role, with higher-order children more susceptible to stunting.

Targeted Nutrition Interventions Needed

Researchers emphasize the need for targeted nutrition programs in hilly and mountainous regions. These programs should focus on improving maternal nutrition, promoting infant and young child feeding practices, and ensuring access to essential nutrients.

“We need to prioritize nutritional interventions in these areas to address the underlying factors contributing to stunting,” said Professor Sumantra Ray of the NNEdPro Global Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health. “By understanding the complexities of malnutrition in high-altitude regions, we can develop effective strategies to ensure that every child has the opportunity to grow and develop to their full potential.”


The study highlights the multifaceted nature of stunting in children living at high altitudes in India. It calls for a comprehensive approach that addresses not only nutritional deficiencies but also underlying factors such as hypoxia, food insecurity, and healthcare access. Only through concerted efforts can India overcome this challenge and ensure the well-being of its future generations.

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