Background: Several studies were carried out to study the prevalence of overweight and obesity among Saudi children, but those assessed the association between eating habits, socio-demographic differentials and obesity in these children are scarce.
Objectives: To assess the magnitude of obesity and overweight among male primary schoolchildren and to find the possible association between obesity/overweight with dietary habits and socio-demographic differentials among them.
Study design and methods: A cross-sectional descriptive study including 1,139 Saudi male enrolled in the fifth and sixth grades in public primary schools in Al Hassa, KSA, through a multistage random sampling technique, submitted to interview using Youth and Adolescent Food Frequency Questionnaire, gathering data regarding dietary intake, some dietary habits, followed by anthropometric measurements with calculation of body mass index, the interpretation of which was based on using Cole's tables for standard definition of overweight and obesity. Socio-demographics data were collected through parental questionnaire form. Data analysis was carried out using SPSS 12 (SPSS Inc. Chicago, IL, USA), univariate as well as multivariate analyses were conducted.
Results: The age ranged from 10 to 14 years. The prevalence of overweight among the included subjects was 14.2% while obesity was 9.7%, more in urban, older age students, mothers of obese and overweight were less educated, more working. Missing and or infrequent intake of breakfast at home, frequent consumption of fast foods, low servings of fruits, vegetables, milk and dairy product per day, with frequent consumption of sweets/candy and carbonated drinks were all predictors of obesity and overweight among the included male schoolchildren.
Conclusion: The prevalence of childhood obesity is escalating and approaching figures reported in the developed countries. Less healthy dietary habits and poor food choices may be responsible for this high prevalence.