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Indian Express
13 April 2010
By Anuradha Mascarenhas

To study growth and body composition of undernourished children in Akola
ALL that Pune’s KEM Hospital researchers require to carry out the project of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are deuterated water and a bio–impedance analysis (BIA) potable machine that will help them track the growth and body composition of undernourished children in Akola district.

The KEM hospital has been selected for conducting the project along with other sites in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sudan and Jamaica.

Dr Urmila Deshmukh, principal investigator of the project that will start from May 1, said, “We are planning to study at least 150 children of age group 18 months to six and conduct follow up visits during the span of a year.

The basic aim of the project is to study the growth and body composition of the undernourished children in Akola.” Deshmukh is a research associate at the KEM hospital’s diabetes unit.

Now, there is a Body Mass Index (BMI) standard for children up to five–year–olds as per the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s guidelines on child growth standards.

The IAEA also provides technical expertise in the use of nuclear applications like stable isotope techniques to combat malnutrition. Non–radioactive or stable isotopes can be safely employed in developing and evaluating nutrition interventions for the most vulnerable population groups, infants and children.

According to Deshmukh, these techniques are valuable tools in developing and monitoring programmes to reduce nutritional deficiencies. For instance, stable isotope techniques establish the ratio of lean tissue to fat in body composition. They can track how the body takes in, uses and retains “micronutrients”, such as vitamins and minerals like iron, zinc, and vitamin A that are vital in supporting healthy growth and development.

Earlier, under the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), only the record of the weight of the child was maintained by anganwadi workers. While the WHO’s new guidelines are yet to be fully implemented, this project goes a step further and uses techniques like BIA and deuterated water to study the body composition of the undernourished child. These techniques will help us monitor the change in adipose tissue for six months.

The study will, in a way, validate these techniques which can be later taught to health workers.

Approximately 30,000 Euros from IAEA have been sanctioned for the project and KEM hospital’s diabetes unit will also partly provide funds, Deshmukh said.

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