With undernourishment being one of the leading problems in South Asian countries, Indian children during the second growth spurt or during adolescence do not get the required protein with the daily diet, a health expert said on Thursday.

The fulfilment of protein is important for the adolescent boys and girls because it is the transitional phase of life from childhood to adulthood and rapid increase in the velocity of height and weight, psychological and sexual maturity with cognitive development are observed among adolescents, said Nandan Joshi, head of Nutrition Science with Danone India.

"There are two growth spurts for the development of growth of the child. First growth spurt occurs during first two years of life. The second growth spurt occurs during adolescence. The age of adolescence for girls is around 10 years and for boys it is around 12 years. During this adolescent growth spurt, there is a change in the growth and development in terms of height and weight gain," he added.

"Protein requirement doubles by the time the child reaches 10 years of age as compared to when the child is four-six years old. This requirement is often not met with the daily diet. Often when it comes to proteins, parents may need to go that extra mile," Joshi told IANS, while speaking over the under nourishment of Indian adolescents.

According to Joshi, need for protein supplements is important for the adolescents to keep healthy as it can boost role of IGF-1 in the body — which is essential for longitudinal bone growth, skeletal maturation and bone mass acquisition.

"Adequate levels of IGF-1 are required for attainment of optimal peak bone mass. There is a strong association between IGF-1 and body size during infancy and childhood."

Joshi said it has been suggested that protein intakes below the physiological needs result in reduced growth.

"The dietary depletion of proteins has been shown to have a marked negative effect on IGF-I concentrations in malnourished children. Further, the quality of protein may also have a regulatory effect on growth," said Joshi.

According to Indian Council of Medical Research, the issue of under nourishment of children is complex: it is not just the lack of food (macro nutrients) but the quality (micro nutrients) as well as the capacity to absorb and utilise nutrients.