Background: Evidence shows that urban children generally have a better nutritional status than their rural counterparts. However, data establishing whether this difference in prevalence of undernutrition could be ascribed to difference in dietary practices are few.
Objective: The aim of this study was to compare dietary practices and nutritional status of children in rural and urban communities of Lagos State, Nigeria.
Methods: This was a comparative-analytical study conducted using the multistage sampling technique to select the study cases. A total of 300 mother-child pairs were studied, including 150 each from rural and urban communities. Data collected include demographics, socioeconomic characteristics, feeding practices and anthropometric measurements of the participants. Food intake data were collected using 24-h dietary recall. Malnutrition in children was determined by calculating the prevalence of low height-for-age (stunting), low weight-for-age (underweight), and low weight-for-height (wasting) using the World Health Organization cutoff points.
Results: The prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months (25.3% vs. 28.7%; P = 0.516), use of formula feeds (48.7% vs. 44%; P = 0.077), and mean age of child at introduction of semisolid foods (7.54 ± 4.0 months vs. 8.51 ± 7.3 months; P = 0.117) were not significantly different between urban and rural communities. The diversity of food choices and frequencies of consumption were similar between urban and rural communities. However, prevalence levels of underweight and stunted children were significantly higher in rural than that of urban communities (19.4% vs. 9.3%, P < 0.001 and 43.3% vs. 12.6%, P < 0.001, respectively).
Conclusions: Other risk factors besides inappropriate feeding practices need to be considered for higher prevalence of undernutrition among children in rural communities.
Keywords: Children; Nigeria; dietary practices; nutritional status; rural; urban.