Overweight among children decreased, but obesity prevalence remained high among women in South Africa, 1999-2005
Objective: 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. Design: 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. Settingsouth Africa, representative sample based on census data. Subjects: Children (n 2157) and women (n 2403). Results: 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 (8·0 % to 6·8 %, P = 0·138), but the combined overweight/obesity prevalence based on BMI cut-off points (17·1 % to 14·0 %, P = 0·02) decreased significantly from 1999 to 2005. Conclusions: The double burden of undernutrition 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. © 2011 The Authors.