Why children should eat their greens16th December 2010
A new dietary study has found that children who don't like to eat fruit and vegetables are more likely to develop constipation.
Youngsters who refuse to eat their five-a-day portions of fruit and vegetables are 13 times more likely to have trouble passing stool daily.
Drinking less than two glasses of water a day also significantly boosted the risk of developing the problem, according to a study in the Journal of Clinical Nursing.
Constipation - infrequent or difficult bowel movements - can be painful. It can also lead to more serious bowel problems if left untreated.
Researchers led by Yuk Ling Chan from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and Moon Fai Chan at the National University of Singapore made a study of primary school age children in Hong Kong.
They studied the dietary habits of 383 children, but excluded those who made regular visits to hospitals or who were on regular medication.
As many as 7% of children in the 8-10 age group had constipation without any physical or psychological cause, commonly known as functional constipation.
While children who did not take in enough water were eight times more likely to have trouble with their bowel movements, those who did not eat fruit or vegetables were 13 more likely to be constipated.
Chan said that functional constipation had been shown in a number of studies to be gradually worsening among school children.
She said that around 95% of children with constipation had functional constipation, that was likely to be caused by a lack of fruit and vegetables or water.
Chan said constipation could cause a range of physical and psychological problems, including stress, problems at school, reduced social interaction and soiling.
Damaged self-confidence could also be among the consequences, she said.
The study said parents should be better educated about the need for fruit, vegetables and fluid, and that schools could improve toilet facilities to help combat the problem, as well as stocking high-fibre snacks.
Chan said the study could help raise awareness of functional constipation, which could seriously affect children's quality of life.
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