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Jakarta Post

Less stress may reduce stunting: Nutritionist

  • News Desk

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Fri, June 29, 2018   /   01:57 pm
Less stress may reduce stunting: Nutritionist Children play near a police officer on Jan. 24 at a shelter in Surabaya that is managed by the East Java Transmigration and Population Agency. (ANTARA FOTO/Zabur Karuru)

Indonesian children have adequate access to nutritious foods, but the country’s stunting rate remained the second highest among ASEAN states, possibly as a result of childhood stress, said nutritionist Ratna Megawangi.

At 44 percent of children under 5, Indonesia’s stunting rate is the second highest after Laos among the 10 ASEAN member countries.

Ratna said that on average, Indonesian children under 5 had enough energy and protein they needed for normal development and that access to nutrition was no longer an issue.

"We need a paradigm shift in childhood nutrition," she said at an event on Thursday that discussed Save the Children's End of Childhood Index 2018.

The index ranks 175 countries on childhood vulnerability caused by factors such as malnutrition, child marriage, early pregnancy, violence and denied access to education.

Ratna said during stress, the human body produced cortisol, a hormone that suppressed appetite and reduced the body’s ability to absorb the nutrients it needed for endurance.

Children today were exposed to various causes of stress, such as lack of maternal care, physical punishment, the competitive rank-based school system and social intolerance, resulting in excessive cortisol production and stunted growth, said Ratna.

Restri Rahmawati, a researcher at Proklamasi Anak Indonesia (proclamation of Indonesian children), a network of 40 child rights advocacy groups, said Ratna’s theory disregarded other key factors that led to stress, such as poverty and enforced traditional gender roles.

“What is needed is to create an inclusive environment by means of, for instance, shunning all violence and not burdening the mother [exclusively] with childcare,” she said. (nor/ebf)