Changing patterns of under- and over-nutrition in South African children-future risks of non-communicable diseases

Ann Trop Paediatr. 2005 Mar;25(1):3-15. doi: 10.1179/146532805X23290.


Under- and over-nutrition in children in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa was investigated comparing data collected from primary school children in a rural district (643 children aged 8-11 years in 1994) with secondary data from the National Schools Study (16,179 children, 4-11 years in 1994), the Vitamin A Consultative Group Study (408 children, 2-5 years in 1994) and the Income Dynamics Study (1,593 children, 2-11 years in 1998). Stunting and wasting (WHO/NCHS guidelines) and overweight and obesity (International Obesity Task Force guidelines) were retrospectively analysed from these studies and compared in the children aged 4-5 and 8-11 years. There was moderate stunting in 10-25%, wasting in 1-6%, 5-24% were overweight and 1-10% obese. Girls in the National Schools Study (p<0.005) and in the primary datasets (p=0.02) had a significantly higher prevalence of overweight than boys; girls (1.4%) were also more obese than boys (0.9%) in the Schools Study (p=0.002), and the boys significantly more stunted (p<0.005) and wasted (p<0.005). An increasing prevalence of overweight and obesity was seen in both the 4-5- and 8-11-year age-groups. The finding that moderate stunting co-exists with overweight and obesity suggests that patterns of under- and over-nutrition in South African children are changing and might indicate the early stages of a complex nutritional transition. Action is required to prevent the future risk of non-communicable diseases.

MeSH terms

  • Age Distribution
  • Child
  • Child Nutrition Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Growth Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Population Surveillance / methods
  • Prevalence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Rural Health
  • Sex Distribution
  • South Africa / epidemiology