Exploring the prevalence of multiple forms of malnutrition in children 6–18 years living in the Eastern Cape, South Africa
Background: The existence of multiple forms of malnutrition is a growing problem in developing countries. Children living in the Eastern Cape have a relatively high prevalence of cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors and food insecurity, suggesting the possibility of the several coexisting forms of malnutrition. Due to the negative long-term consequences of undernutrition, overnutrition and, to a greater extent, a combination of both, it is important for this issue to be identified early in children and addressed.
Aim: This study was undertaken to investigate the prevalence of the different forms of malnutrition in children living in the Eastern Cape province.
Methods: Secondary analysis of a cross-sectional sample of 237 school-aged children, aged 6–18 years, in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa was conducted. The variables included in the analysis were the demographic data, anthropometric data and biochemical data, specifically blood profiles related to micronutrient deficiencies and CVD risk factors. Fisher’s exact test was used to compare the prevalence rates of several coexisting forms of malnutrition in the children. All data analysis was conducted in R version 4.0.3 and statistical significance was set at 0.05.
Results: In children with overweight/obesity, 13.6% had a micronutrient deficiency, while 37.71% of the children within the normal weight range had coexisting micronutrient deficiencies and CVD risk factors. The prevalence of folate deficiency was 73.0%, iron deficiency 6.3%, and hyperglycaemia was at 10.6%. Fisher’s exact test was used to compare the prevalence rates between genders and no statistically significant differences were observed.
Conclusion: Further research is needed to understand the relatively high prevalence of CVD risk factors in these children within the normal weight range and to investigate how dietary intake contributes to the overall double burden of malnutrition in children.
Keywords: children, adolescents, overweight, cardiovascular risk factors, micronutrient deficiencies, double burden
The SAJCN does not hold itself responsible for statements made by the authors.