Malnutrition is still a huge challenge among children in Southeast Asia

A recently completed study of nearly 14,000 children, aged six months to 12 years, highlights an important issue known as the ‘triple burden’ of malnutrition. This is the coexistence of undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies and overweight/obesity. These three burdens often coexist in the same country and can even occur in the same family. The largescale study, commissioned by FrieslandCampina, was conducted between 2019 and 2021 by leading universities and research institutes in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.

Nutritional status of children aged 0.5 to 12 years in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam: South East Asia Nutrition Survey (SEANUTS) results 3This new study follows the South East Asian Nutrition Surveys (SEANUTS I), which were presented in 2012. Overall, this second study (SEANUTS II) shows that stunting and anemia still exist, especially in younger children. However, for the older children, there is a higher prevalence of overweight and obesity. Also, most of the children do not meet the average needs of calcium and vitamin D intake and show vitamin D insufficiencies. This ‘triple burden’ makes it a matter of great importance to fill nutritional gaps with proper nutrition interventions and educational programmes.

Numbers show urgency of improving access to better nutrition

Commenting on the study’s findings, Dr. Poh Bee Koon, Principal Investigator for SEANUTS II in Malaysia and Professor of Nutrition at UKM’s Faculty of Health Sciences, Centre for Community Health Studies, explains: “Healthy nutrition is about balance, moderation and variety. If children don’t get the nutrition they need, they won’t grow and develop properly. Our new study revealed that more than 70 per cent of the children in all four countries did not meet the average needs for calcium and more than 84 per cent did not meet the average vitamin D requirements. These numbers emphasise an urgent need to improve food security, as well as the availability of food products that meet the children’s needs, thus increasing access to healthy nutrition.”

Margrethe Jonkman, Global Director, Research & Development, FrieslandCampina, states: “Research is key to getting a better understanding of local nutritional needs. The results from this study will help FrieslandCampina in developing better and affordable products that meet the nutritional needs of children and in setting up programmes to promote a well-balanced diet and active lifestyle in collaboration with local authorities, health workers and schools.”

Also watch this results video (01:52 min.).

About SEANUTS II

SEANUTS II conference: What is the title? 1

The study was conducted in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. In total, 13,933 children, aged six months to 12 years, were recruited from urban and rural schools, community health centres and sub-district administrative organisations in these four countries. Principal investigators from leading universities and research institutes, together with their expert teams, were responsible for the study design. Together with the local mobile field teams, they conducted the data collection between 2019 and 2021.

SEANUTS II was commissioned and sponsored by FrieslandCampina. The survey was conducted in collaboration with the University of Indonesia (in Indonesia); the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (in Malaysia); the Mahidol University (in Thailand) and the National Institute of Nutrition (in Vietnam). The first study, SEANUTS I, was conducted in 2010 and 2011. Please find more details at this page.

The findings of SEANUTS II will be presented during a digital conference – new insights on the nutrition and health status of Southeast Asian children – on 17 and 18 June 2022.

For more information on the institutions, visit:

University of Indonesia (www.ui.ac.id); Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (www.ukm.my); Mahidol University in Thailand (www.mahidol.ac.th) and National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) – Vien Dinh Duong (www.viendinhduong.vn).