Stunting and Wasting Among Indian Preschoolers have Moderate but Significant Associations with the Vegetarian Status of their Mothers. uri icon


  • Background: India has high rates of child undernutrition and widespread lactovegetarianism.
  • Conclusions: Anthropometric outcomes differed by maternal vegetarian status, which is itself strongly associated with socioeconomic position, location, religion, and caste.
  • Methods: The 2015-2016 National Family Health Survey (NFHS) and the 2011-2012 National Sample Survey (NSS) were used to explore associations between parental vegetarian status and child stunting and wasting at ages 0-59 mo and anemia at ages 6-59 mo. In the NFHS, self-reports on usual consumption of foods were used to classify maternal diets, whereas in the NSS lactovegetarianism was defined at the household level.
  • Objectives: The objective of this study was to examine how nutrition outcomes varied among Indian preschool children in relation to the vegetarian status of their parents.
  • Results: Compared with children of nonvegetarian mothers, children aged 24-59 mo of lactovegetarian mothers were 2.9 percentage points (95% CI: -4.0, -1.9) less likely to be stunted and children aged 6-23 mo were 1.6 points less likely to be wasted (95% CI: -3.0, -0.03), whereas children aged 6-23 mo with vegan mothers were 5.2 points more likely to be stunted (95% CI: 0.1, 9.4). When compared with nonvegetarian households, lactovegetarian households had better socioeconomic status and were more likely to consume dairy frequently. Children in nonvegetarian households consumed nondairy animal-sourced foods (ASFs) with relatively low frequency. The frequency of maternal dairy consumption was significantly associated with lower risks of child stunting and wasting.

publication date

  • 2020
  • 2020