Anorexia – The silent “enemy” of children’s development


According to statistics from scientific studies, about 50-60% of parents have difficulty feeding their children, if this condition persists, it is likely that the child has anorexia. The problem of anorexia in children is quite common today, but if detected early, it can be completely overcome and does not affect the child’s health. On the contrary, if parents do not pay attention and do not take timely intervention measures, anorexia will become a habit in children and lead to malnutrition, seriously affecting other aspects of the child such as physical health, psychology, intelligence,…

1. Effects of anorexia on children’s physical health

Anorexia causes children to not get enough important nutrients. Therefore, malnutrition is an inevitable consequence of prolonged anorexia in young children, seriously affecting physical development. According to a 2021 WHO study analyzing data from 191 countries worldwide, anorexia is the main cause of malnutrition in children under 5 years old. Malnutrition slows down children’s physical development, it also makes them lose weight, have rickets, and be short compared to their peers. Many experts say that children with anorexia in the first 2 years of life are 3 times more likely to be underweight than children who eat well.

Children with anorexia and malnutrition are a concern for parents

Another consequence of anorexia that many experts and parents worry about is a weakened immune system of anorexic children, making them susceptible to disease. This is easy to explain, as anorexic children lack essential vitamins and minerals for the immune system, thereby making the body vulnerable to attacks by bacteria and viruses that cause infectious diseases such as diarrhea, pneumonia, flu,… In a study by the Vietnam National Institute of Nutrition, research on children under 5 years old showed that malnourished children had a 1.8 times higher rate of diarrhea and 1.5 times for pneumonia. Or according to experts, when the immune system is weakened, children with anorexia have 29% more days of illness, and 45% more risk of upper respiratory tract infections.

Children with anorexia weaken their immune system, making them susceptible to disease

2. The impact of anorexia on children’s psychology

Another consequence of anorexia that silently hurts children that most parents may not pay attention to is EQ (Emotional Quotient). Children with high EQ develop good communication and expression skills, get along easily with friends, and adapt quickly to the surrounding environment. This can be considered a good foundation to help children perfect their personality and necessary skills to succeed in the future. However, children with anorexia usually do not have enough nutrition and energy, so they do not like to exercise, are moody and do not want to play. That leads to the formation of slowness, passivity and eccentricity compared to friends and surroundings. This long-term condition will lead to low EQ, difficulty in sociability and sometimes lead to depression or autism in young children.

Not only does it directly affect the child, but parents are also more likely to be stressed and tired when their child has a prolonged anorexia. In a study by the US National Institute of Mental Health Research on 200 parents of anorexic children, 33% of parents of anorexic children experienced anxiety symptoms, 22% of parents of anorexic children experienced symptoms of depression, and 15% of parents of anorexic children are at high risk of developing obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Children with high EQ develop good communication and sociability skills

3. Effects of anorexia on intellectual development in children

Nutrition is one of three factors that determine a child’s intellectual development, including nutrition, genes and learning environment. Children with anorexia face the risk of lacking one or more important micronutrients for brain function such as omega 3, 6, DHA, iron, etc. This will lead to learning problems such as the ability to concentrate and memorize in children, even permanent brain damage, affecting their later lives. Studies show that children with anorexia are significantly inferior in intelligence compared to children who are well-nourished, and this loss can affect the child’s development for the next 5 years. In addition, science has also clinically proven that the MDI (Mental Developmental Index) of anorexic children is only 96 points, which is 14 points lower than the 110 points of children with good eating.

Children are focused and interested in learning

4. Anorexia and risk of chronic diseases

In addition to the consequences described above, anorexia in children also has many potential serious health risks, especially chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Vitamin D and calcium deficiencies due to anorexia can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. A study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics in 2018 showed that children with a history of anorexia are at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes 1.5 times higher than normal children. In addition, anorexia can lead to deficiencies in essential nutrients for the heart such as vitamin B12, folic acid, iron, etc., increasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure and myocardial infarction.,…

Children with anorexia are at risk of cardiovascular diseases

5. Preventing anorexia in children

To effectively prevent anorexia in children, parents need to apply scientific measures appropriate to the child’s age. This article will present practical ways to prevent anorexia in children that are recommended by WHO and Vietnam Ministry of Health.

First, parents need to build a reasonable nutritional diet for their children through factors including providing a full range of nutrients, dividing meals appropriately, and supplementing energy; and avoiding unhealthy foods such as snacks. A child’s diet is required to fully satisfy essential nutrients such as protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Parents should consult a nutritionist to develop a menu appropriate to their child’s age and needs. Along with that, parents should divide into 5-6 small meals a day instead of 3 main meals, this makes it easier for children to digest and absorb food.

In addition, parents also need to supplement their children’s energy with food according to their age. In particular, parents need to prioritize nutritional products containing high-energy formula F100 (i.e. 100ml of nutritional product will provide 100 kcal). This is the formula recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Ministry of Health in the treatment regimen for malnourished children.

With thorough understanding of children’s need as well as the desire to solve the worries of Vietnamese parents on the journey of curing their children’s anorexia, the team of experts from the Nutricare Medical Nutrition Institute – USA has cooperated with Nutricare to research and successfully applied world-class scientific achievements to launch the new Hanie Kid specialized nutritional product for anorexic and malnourished children.

This is an improved product with Pedia formula that fully applies the WHO’s 100 kcal energy recommendation for underweight and anorexic children, combined with high quality protein, balancing the ratio of essential nutrients for growth. In particular, Hanie Kid also supplements 24-hour colostrum imported from the US combined with a trio of calcium, vitamins K2 and D3 to help increase height and improve children’s immune system. Through clinical proof, children who use 2 cups of Hanie Kid (equivalent to 3 boxes of ready-to-drink milk) per day will gain 155% better weight, 63% better height and help reduce malnutrition rate to 14% better after only 1 month of use. Thanks to that, the product has been recommended by nutrition experts and trusted by a number of parents with anorexic and malnourished children in Vietnam.

Design a reasonable nutritional diet for children by ensuring adequate levels of nutrients  

Besides a suitable diet, creating healthy eating habits for children also significantly limits the risk of causing anorexia in children. Parents should talk to their children, create a happy atmosphere during meals, and avoid scolding or pressuring them to eat. In addition, children often learn from adults when it comes to eating, so parents also need to eat on time and healthily to set an example for their children. In particular, each child has a different development rate, parents should compare their children with themselves instead of comparing them with other children..

Mother creates a happy atmosphere while eating   

Exercise allows children to consume energy and effectively stimulates their appetite. Therefore, parents should encourage children to participate in age-appropriate physical activities such as outdoor activities, playing sports, swimming, going for walks or going on weekend picnics.

Exercise allows children to consume energy and stimulates their appetite 

Finally, if a child’s anorexia persists or shows signs of malnutrition, parents should take him/her to see a nutritionist or doctor for treatment advice. Nutritionists can assess the child’s current nutritional status, thereby recommending a suitable nutritional regimen. Doctors may have appropriate intervention and medical treatment to cure anorexia.

Conclusion: According to research from the National Institute of Nutrition in 2022, the rate of anorexia in children in Vietnam is more than 40%, making anorexia in children one of the top concerns not only within the family but of the whole society. Anorexia in children can seriously affect their health, development and quality of life in the future. Therefore, parents – the main people responsible for caring and raising – need to be aware of their children’s nutrition and mental health to effectively prevent anorexia. This is also an important step to make a difference in future generations.


1. Birch LL, Doub AE. Learning to eat: birth to age 2 y. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 Mar;99(3):723S-8S. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.113.069047. Epub 2014 Jan 22. PMID: 24452235.

2. Feeding difficulties and picky eating are major causes of undernutrition in children under 5, accounting for 45 per cent of stunting and 27 per cent of wasting,


4. Nguyễn Thị Minh Ánh, Phạm Thị Thu Hà, Nguyễn Thị Tuyết Minh. Ảnh hưởng của suy dinh dưỡng thể nhẹ đối với tình trạng miễn dịch ở trẻ em dưới 5 tuổi”. Viện dinh dưỡng quốc gia Việt Nam (2018)

5. Bould H, Koupil I, Dalman C, DeStavola B, Lewis G, Magnusson C. Parental mental illness and eating disorders in offspring. Int J Eat Disord. 2015 May;48(4):383-91. doi: 10.1002/eat.22325. Epub 2014 Jun 25. PMID: 24965548.


7. López-Gil JF, García-Hermoso A, Smith L, et al. Global Proportion of Disordered Eating in Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis . JAMA Pediatr. 2023;177(4):363–372. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2022.5848




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