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Nutrition. 2011 Sep;27(9):904-11. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2010.10.007. Epub 2011 Mar 2.

What is the nutritional status of children of obese mothers in South Africa?

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  • 1Centre for the Study of Social and Environmental Determinants of Nutrition, Human Sciences Research Council, Cape Town, South Africa.



To evaluate the anthropometric status of children of obese (body mass index [BMI] ≥30 kg/m2) mothers who participated during the 2005 National Food Consumption Study.


The survey population consisted of children 1-9 y of age and their mothers 16 to 35 y of age living in the same households (n = 1532). A national sample of households was drawn, representative of all nine provinces and urban and rural areas. Trained fieldworkers measured the heights and weights of participants at their homes.


The prevalence of obesity was high in the mothers (27.9%), particularly in the 26- to 35-y-old (older) group (32.3%) and in urban areas (29.1%). Children of older mothers had a significantly (P < 0.05) higher mean height-for-age Z-score (-0.91) than those of younger mothers (16 to 25 y old, -1.06). Mean weight-for-age and weight-for-height Z-scores were significantly higher in children of obese women compared with those of non-obese women (BMI <30 kg/m2, P < 0.001). Furthermore, obese mothers had significantly more overweight children than non-obese mothers (P < 0.0001). Eighty-four percent of overweight children also had mothers with a BMI ≥25 kg/m2 and 52% had mothers with a BMI ≥30 kg/m2(∗ indicates statistical significance of confidence interval). Stunted mothers had a 1.5 times higher risk of being overweight (BMI ≥25 kg/m2, odds ratio 1.45, confidence interval 1.06-2.01).


Overall, children of obese mothers had significantly higher mean Z-scores than those of mothers who were non-obese. Overweight and obese women were significantly less likely to have stunted or underweight children, whereas underweight women and stunted women were significantly more likely to have underweight and stunted children, respectively.

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