Chile has probably experienced Latin America's fastest nutritional transition, as evidenced by very low rates of stunting, but the country shows a high prevalence of obesity in most population groups.
The aim was to assess the existence of a double burden of nutritional problems in Chile on the basis of available data.
Secondary analyses were conducted on data collected by the Health Ministry (height and weight for children aged <6 y and for adults aged ≥65 y), the Education Ministry (height and weight in the first year of primary school and the first year of high school), the 2003 and 2009-2010 National Health Surveys [body mass index (BMI) and anemia prevalence], the 2010-2011 National Food Consumption Survey (ENCA; food consumption, height, and weight), and a Food Insecurity Survey of elderly adults (aged 65-74 y) in Santiago (height, weight, and food insecurity).
In 2011 the prevalence of stunting (height-for-age < -2 z scores) was 1.9% for children <6 y old and 3.6% among children in the first year of primary school. This situation was in contrast with a high prevalence of obesity in children (22.1% of children in the first year of primary school; BMI ≥2 z scores) and among adults, especially women, increasing with age (44.8% of women 45-64 y old had a BMI ≥30 kg/m(2)). The prevalence of anemia in women aged 15-64 y was low (5.1%). In the ENCA survey, women showed a high prevalence of below-average intakes of vitamin A, vitamin B-12, vitamin C, calcium, and zinc, irrespective of BMI. Elderly persons who were underweight and those who were obese had a significantly greater perception of food insecurity in relation to those with a normal weight (61%, 50%, and 33%, respectively).
The data showed high rates of obesity with very low frequency of stunting and, although more information is needed, the double burden of malnutrition probably does not exist in Chile, unlike in other countries in the region. Among specific groups there are low intakes of critical nutrients and food insecurity. Surveys that include anthropometric and biochemical measurements at the family level are needed to correctly evaluate the double burden of malnutrition in Chile.