The Double Burden of Undernutrition and Overnutrition in Developing Countries: an Update

Curr Obes Rep. 2015 Sep;4(3):337-49. doi: 10.1007/s13679-015-0170-y.


Many developing countries have achieved a remarkable improvement in nutrition status in the past decades. However, the prevalence of undernutrition remains a serious problem. At the same time, the prevalence of obesity is increasing substantially, and in some countries, it has approached that of developed countries. This article provides an update on this double burden of malnutrition (DBMN) in developing nations. One hundred countries (lower, middle-lower, and upper-middle income countries) were selected and analysed, and to support the analysis, a systematic review of current published studies was performed. The results show that DBMN already exists in almost all developing countries and that the DBMN ratio (i.e., overweight/underweight) has increased as income per capita has increased. DBMN may manifest within the community, household, or individual. In addition to common factors, poor nutrition in early childhood is suggested as another important driving factor behind the rising obesity rate in most developing countries. A life-course approach has been proposed to prevent undernutrition and overnutrition and should be integrated into the development of health systems to control double burden in developing countries.

Keywords: Developing countries; Double burden; Malnutrition; Obesity; Overweight; Underweight.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Nutritional Physiological Phenomena / physiology*
  • Developing Countries*
  • Humans
  • Malnutrition / epidemiology*
  • Nutritional Status*
  • Overnutrition / epidemiology*
  • Overweight / epidemiology*
  • Prevalence
  • Socioeconomic Factors