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Better diet, standard of living could be behind growth spurt

Improvements in the nutrition, health and the socio-economic well-being of families here could have made Singaporean children taller and heavier than their peers a decade ago, experts say.

Past figures by the Health Promotion Board and Ministry of Education show that the childhood obesity rate here rose from 9 per cent in 2005 to 10.9 per cent in 2011,and has remained constant since then.

Professor Lee Yung Seng, a senior consultant at the National University Hospital's division of paediatric endocrinology, says: "The perception of children being taller now may be seen in the older children, who may reach puberty earlier and thus appear taller when they are at the late primary-school level."

And the early onset of puberty could be attributed to better nutrition, Prof Lee says.

NUTRITION

Consultant nutritionist Sherlyn Quek adds that nutrition and genes play a part in a developed society like Singapore.

"With the abundance of food and the improved nutrition quality that kids have access to, there has been a trend of children being bigger than their parents," she explains.

And it is natural for a generation to be bigger than the previous generation, says Dr Terence Tan, a consultant paediatrician in private practice. He adds: "A higher standard of living - children having better food, better overall health with less serious illnesses - leads to better growth."