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J Nutr. 1996 Dec;126(12):3009-16.

Stunting is associated with overweight in children of four nations that are undergoing the nutrition transition.

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Department of Nutrition, School of Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 27516-3997, USA.


A higher risk of obesity in stunted children has been described in Hispanic-American, Jamaican and Andean populations, but little systematic exploration has been done concerning this area in nutrition. This paper examines the relationship between stunting and overweight status for children aged 3-6 and 7-9 y in nationally representative surveys in Russia, Brazil, and the Republic of South Africa and a large nationwide survey in China. Using identical cut-offs for body mass index, the prevalence of child overweight in these countries ranges from 10.5 to 25.6% (based on the 85th percentile); recent NHANES III results indicate that this prevalence is around 22% in the U.S. Stunting is also common in the surveyed countries affecting 9.2-30.6% of all children. Our results showed a significant association between stunting and overweight status in children of all countries. The income-adjusted risk ratios of being overweight for a stunted child ranged from 1.7 to 7.8. Clearly, there is an important association between stunting and high weight-for-height in a variety of ethnic environmental and social backgrounds. Although the underlying mechanisms remain unexplored, this association has serious public health implications particularly for lower income countries. As these countries enter the nutrition transition experiencing large changes in dietary and activity patterns, they may face, among other problems, additional difficulties in their fight against obesity.

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