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Undernutrition can be deadly for kids

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Undernutrition accounts for more than 53 percent of all child deaths each year, ranking above infectious diseases, U.S. and U.N. researchers have found.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School and the World Health Organization found childhood undernutrition -- defined as youth at a dangerously low weight -- is the leading risk factor contributing to disease, confirming an earlier study that found 55 percent of child deaths are due to undernutrition.

Malnutrition does not have to be severe to have a significant impact on child health and survival, said author Laura E. Caulfield, a professor at Bloomberg's Center for Human Nutrition.

Even children who are underweight for their age, but not considered to be malnourished, are twice as likely to die compared to normal-weight children, the researchers said.

The study reported undernutrition is responsible for 60 percent of deaths in diarrhea cases, 52 percent resulting from pneumonia, 45 percent from measles and 57 percent as a result of malaria.

Copyright 2004 by United Press International

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