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PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e52792. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0052792. Epub 2013 Jan 7.

A comparative study on nutritional status and body composition of urban and rural schoolchildren from Brandsen district (Argentina).

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Instituto de Genética Veterinaria. Facultad de Ciencias Veterinarias, Universidad Nacional de La Plata, UNLP-CONICET CCT La Plata, La Plata, Provincia de Buenos Aires, Argentina.


The purpose of this study was to analyze whether nutritional status and body composition varies according to the environment of residence (urban or rural) of children in the Brandsen district (Argentina). Weight, height, arm circumference and tricipital and subscapular skinfolds were performed in 1368 schoolchildren aged 3 to 14. NHANES III reference was used to estimate nutritional status -underweight, stunting, wasting, overweight, and obesity- and to evaluate body composition -deficit and excess of adipose (DA, EA) and muscular (DM, EM) tissues of the arm-. Central fat distribution (CFD) was estimated using the subscapular-tricipital index. A structured questionnaire was implemented to evaluate socio-environmental characteristics. Nutritional categories based on body size and body composition were compared between urban and rural areas of residence using Chi-squared tests (χ2). The results indicated for the total sample: 1.1% underweight, 6.9% stunting, 0.4% wasting, 12.1% overweight, 9.7% obesity, 22.0% DM, 2.5% EM, 0.1% DA, 17.6% EA, and 8.5% CFD. Significant differences between urban and rural areas were found only for CFD. The socio-environmental analysis showed that while access to public services and housing quality was significantly better in the urban area, a considerable number of city households lived under deficient conditions, lacked health insurance and had low socioeconomic level. Fifty-three percent of the undernourished children had DM without urban-rural significant differences, and none of them showed DA. In the overweight plus obesity group, 62.8% presented EA, 6.4% EM, 4.7% DM, and 22.8% CFD. The highest percentages of DM and CFD were recorded in rural areas (p = 0.00). We conclude that the child population shows the "double burden" of malnutrition. The environment of residence does not promote any differentiation in the nutritional status. Nevertheless, the increment of central adiposity and, in some cases of muscle deficit in rural children, suggests a consumption of unbalanced diet.

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