Hyderabad: Adolescent boys in the two Telugu states consume more nutritious food than girls, according to a study published by Young Lives Project, funded by Oxford University’s department of international development. Data was collected from 3,000 children of ages five, eight, 12 and 15 from the two states.
The study reported that while the gender gap is not much for the first three ages, it was starkly visible among 15-year-olds. Boys of this age consumed more proteins and vitamin-rich food than girls. It was found through the study that the main reason for the gender gap was academic expectations of the parents.
Ms Elisabetta Aurino, research fellow at the School of Public Health, Imperial College, London who conducted the study for Young Lives using their data, found that in households where parents had higher academic expectations from their children, the male child was given better nutritional food even though there was not much difference between boys and girls when it came to working on the farm or at home and studying in school.
Before coming to this conclusion, the study author tested other reasons such as onset of puberty, and the time spent working or at school, but the gender gap could not be established. When it came to expectations of parents from children, the gender gap was easily visible.
Ms Aurino found that the gender gap in nutritional intake existed regardless of the socioeconomic condition of the family, education status of the mother and whether the household was located in an urban location or rural.
Nutrition experts say that, apart from gender bias, another reason is the eating habits of girls. Dr D. Raghunatha Rao, senior scientist at the National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, said, “Girls’ dietary behaviour and their eating attitude are different from boys. They are more concerned about their weight and what food they consume as compared to boys who usually spend more calories in a day than girls and consume a wide range and large quantity of food than girls.”