Objectives: To determine the prevalence of stunting, wasting and overweight and their determinants in 3-year-old children in the Central Region of Limpopo Province, South Africa.
Design: Prospective cohort study.
Setting: Rural villages in the Central Region of the Limpopo Province, South Africa.
Subjects: One hundred and sixty-two children who were followed from birth were included in the study. Anthropometric measurements and sociodemographic characteristics of the children were recorded.
Results: Height-for-age Z-scores were low, with a high prevalence of stunting (48%). The children also exhibited a high prevalence of overweight (22%) and obesity (24%). Thirty-one (19%) children were both stunted and overweight. Gaining more weight within the first year of life increased the risk of being overweight at 3 years by 2.39 times (95% confidence interval (CI) 1.96-4.18) while having a greater length at 1 year was protective against stunting (odds ratio (OR) 0.41; 95% CI 0.17-0.97). Having a mother as a student increased the risk for stunting at 3 years by 18.21 times (95% CI 9.46-34.74) while having a working mother increased the risk for overweight by 17.87 times (95% CI 8.24-38.78). All these factors also appeared as risks or as being protective in children who were both overweight and stunted, as did living in a household having nine or more persons (OR 5.72; 95% CI 2.7-12.10).
Conclusion: The results of this study highlight the importance of evaluating anthropometric status in terms of both stunting and overweight. Furthermore, it is important to realise the importance of normal length and weight being attained at 1 year of age, since these in turn predict nutritional status at 3 years of age.