Vietnamese have grown taller by 4cm in the last 35 years, according to the National Institute of Nutrition.

The average heights of men and women have increased to 164.4cm and 153cm, it said.

This represents a 13.1cm and 10.7cm difference in height for Vietnamese men and women compared to the international average.

Besides, three out of every 10 children aged under five do not reach even the Vietnamese standard, meaning 2.5 million children are stunted, according to the Institute’s Director Prof Le Thi Hop.

“Malnutrition is one of the major causes of stunted growth during the development stages of children,” she said.

To improve the average height, therefore, priority should be given to preventing malnutrition in children, she added.

The institute reported that more than 50 percent of children fail to get enough vitamins or iron in their daily meals.

Its recent surveys found that the ratio of children efficient in vitamins like A, B1, C and D was higher than in Malaysia, Indonesia, or Thailand.

More than 20 percent of children under one are deficient in vitamin A and iron.

Children aged from 13 months to two years have the highest rate of vitamin deficiency and anemia - 58 percent. Nutritionists said Vietnamese meals lack vitamins and do not meet children’s development needs.

They said parents should be educated about the importance of vitamins to children’s development, and families need to change their habits.

Children under one need exposure to sun, especially in the first three months, and they should be fed breast milk instead of formula, they said.

Vietnam hopes to increase the average height of men to 167cm and women to 157cm by 2020 under a project drafted by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

To meet these targets, authorities work will focus on promoting physical exercises and a school-based nutrition.-VNA