From Science Daily:

Some 61 million rural children left behind by parents moving to China’s booming urban centres are at risk from increased fat and reduced protein in their diets, research from The University of Manchester, published in Public Health Nutrition suggests.

The study of 975 children from 140 rural villages in nine provinces carefully analysed nutritional intake and showed a particular risk to boys who were left behind in the care of grandparents or one parent while a mother or father sought work away from home.

The research was led by Nan Zhang from the University’s School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work. She said: “There are sound financial reasons why so many people move from rural to urban areas in China, but the benefits that more money brings to a family can often be at the expense of child nutrition.

“The Chinese government needs to recognise this growing problem among rural communities and this research provides some evidence to target health policies on encouraging a balanced diet.”

The study found that ‘left behind’ boys in particular consumed more fat and less protein than those from complete families, which leaves them at increased risk of obesity and stunted growth. This finding has important policy implications in a specific cultural context where ‘son preferences’ are powerful.

Although the findings don’t provide reasons for this change in diet, the researchers speculate that mothers moving away from home generally earn less, and that these lower earnings act in combination with grandparents’ poorer dietary knowledge or…

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