There is an increase in the prevalence of overweight and obesity in children worldwide, including South Africa. We investigated the prevalences of overweight, obesity, and stunting in a current generation of children (ages 12 to 108 mo), which has a high prevalence of stunting, and evaluated the determinants of both nutritional disorders.
Secondary data analysis of the weight and height measurements of 12- to 108-mo-old children (weighted n = 2200, non-weighted n = 2894) during the 1999 National Food Consumption Survey in South Africa is reported. The body mass index reference percentiles recommended for use in children by the International Obesity Task Force were used to determine the prevalence of overweight and obesity, and the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) percentiles were used to determine the prevalence of stunting.
Nationally, the prevalence of stunting (height-for-age < or = -2 standard deviations, NCHS 50th percentile) in these children was 19.3% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 17.49 to 21.16) and was highest in 1- to 3-y-old children (24.4%) and in children of farm workers on commercial farms (25.6%). The prevalence of combined overweight and obesity (body mass index > or = 25 kg/m(2) in 17.1%, 95% CI = 15.00 to 19.23) at the national level was nearly as high as that for stunting. Further, the types of determinants for stunting and overweight were generally similar (although directionally opposite in degree of risk conferred) and included type of housing, type of toilet in the home, fuel used in cooking, presence of a refrigerator or stove, presence of a television in the house, educational level of the caregiver, and maternal education level. An example of the directionally opposite degree of risk is exemplified by the use of paraffin as a fuel being protective against being overweight (odds ratio = 0.78, 95% CI = 0.63 to 0.97) but predictive of an increased risk for stunting (odds ratio = 1.24, 95% CI = 1.04 to 1.48). Stunting itself conferred an increased risk (odds ratio = 1.80, 95% CI = 1.48 to 2.20) of being overweight.
Certain defined determinants appear to play important roles in children's nutritional outcomes in relation to stunting and to overweight and obesity.