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Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2000 Aug;24(8):959-67.

Overweight and obesity in preschool children from developing countries.

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  • 1Department of International Health, The Rollins School of Public Health of Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA.



To estimate levels and trends in overweight and obesity in preschool children from developing countries; to study how overweight varies by the educational level of the mother, by urban or rural residence, and by gender; to investigate how these relationships are related to the gross national product (GNP).


71 national nutrition surveys since 1986 from 50 countries were used.


150,482 children 12 to 60 months from the most recent survey from each country were the primary sample.


Overweight and obesity were defined as weight-for-height (>1 or >2 s.d., respectively) of the WHO/NCHS reference curves. Stunting was <-2 s.d. of the same reference. Urban was as defined in each of the surveys and higher education was defined as at least one year of secondary schooling or higher.


32 of 50 countries had a prevalence of obesity below 2.3%, the value in the reference population. The prevalences of overweight and obesity were lowest in Asia and in Sub-Saharan Africa. In 17 countries with serial data, no consistent regional trends could be detected. Overweight was more common in urban areas, in children of mothers with higher education, and in girls; these relationships did not differ by GNP but GNP was related negatively to stunting and positively to overweight.


Obesity does not appear to be a public health problem among preschool children in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. In a number of countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East and North Africa, and the region of Central Eastern Europe/Commonwealth of Independent States, levels are as high as in the United States.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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