Overweight among children decreased, but obesity prevalence remained high among women in South Africa, 1999-2005
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The aim of the present study was to assess anthropometric status in South African children and women in 2005 in order to document temporal trends in selected anthropometric parameters. Heights and weights were measured in a cross-sectional study of children aged 1-9 years and women aged 16-35 years. The WHO reference values and BMI cut-off points were used to determine weight status. Stunting was the most common nutritional disorder affecting 21.7% of children in 1999 and 20.7% in 2005. The difference was not statistically significant. Underweight prevalence remained unchanged, affecting 8.1% of children, whereas wasting affected 5.8% of children nationally, a significant increase from 4.3% of children in 1999. Rural children were most severely affected. According to the international BMI cut-off points for overweight and obesity, 10% of children nationally were classified as overweight and 4% as obese. The national prevalence of overweight and obesity combined for women was 51.5%. The prevalence of overweight in children based on weight-for-height Z-score did not change significantly, but the combined overweight/obesity prevalence based on BMI cut-off points decreased significantly from 1999 to 2005. The double burden of under nutrition in children and overweight among women is evident in South Africa and getting worse due to increased childhood wasting combined with a high prevalence of obesity among urban women, indicating a need for urgent intervention.