Poor diet links obese mothers and stunted children

December 11, 2014

Malnutrition is a major cause of stunted growth in children, but new UCL research on mothers and children in Egypt suggests that the problem is not just about quantity of food but also quality.

Obesity and malnutrition are often thought of as problems at opposite ends of the nutrition spectrum, but the study found that 6.7% of Egyptian mothers were obese and had stunted children. In these 'double-burden' households with obese mothers and stunted children, malnutrition is unlikely to be down to scarcity of food.

The study, published in the Maternal and Child Health Journal, found that children who were fed chocolate, biscuits or sweets were 51% more likely to belong to a double-burden household, whereas children who were fed fruit and vegetables were 24% less likely to be in this category. Researchers used data including weight and height from 25,065 mothers and their children from the Egyptian Demographic and Health Surveys in 1992, 1995, 2005 and 2008. Information on the food given to children was provided by 5,357 mothers and their children in the 2008 survey.

"Malnutrition is not only a question of not having enough food, it is also about not having good enough food," says Dr Amina Aitsi-Selmi (UCL Epidemiology & Public Health), lead author of the study. "A household diet rich in energy-dense, sugary food and poor in fruit and vegetables is unlikely to provide all the nutrients that children need to grow. I would consider a child fed on nothing but sugary snacks malnourished, even if they are not under-nourished.

"Policies should not focus on either reducing the calories consumed by mothers or making sure children get enough calories. Improving the diversity and nutrient contents of the whole household diet could help to address both maternal obesity and child stunting, whereas treating them as separate problems may make things worse."

Obesity is traditionally seen as a problem for rich countries and child stunting a problem for poor countries. However, the sudden availability of cheap, high energy-density foods in middle-income countries such as Egypt has led to high obesity rates.

The study found that maternal obesity in Egypt rose from 22% in 1992/95 to 32.3% in 2005/08. While stunting levels among children declined from 22.4% to 14.7% over the same period, the number of obese mothers with stunted children increased from 4.1% to 5.6%.

"Whether there is a biological link between obese mothers and their stunted children from birth is not known, and our study does not address this question," explains Dr Aitsi-Selmi. "We did find that poor quality nutrition is associated with both maternal obesity and child stunting, suggesting that it may be a common factor for both conditions. In Egypt, there is a government subsidy on oil, sugar and bread but not fruit or vegetables, favouring high calories and low micronutrients. There are also cultural preferences for plumpness as a body shape norm, although obesity rates are far higher in Egypt than in surrounding countries with similar cultural norms. People should be encouraged to eat more healthily, and a reform of the subsidy system may be a good place to start."
-end-


University College London

Related Obesity Articles from Brightsurf:

11 years of data add to the evidence for using testosterone therapy to treat obesity, including as an alternative to obesity surgery
New research covering 11 years of data presented at this year's European and International Congress on Obesity (ECOICO 2020) show that, in obese men suffering from hypogonadism (low testosterone), treatment with testosterone injections lowers their weight and improves a wide range of other metabolic parameters.

Overlap between immunology of COVID-19 and obesity could explain the increased risk of death in people living with obesity, and also older patients
Data presented in a special COVID-19 session at the European and International Congress on Obesity (ECOICO 2020) suggests that there are overlaps between the immunological disturbances found in both COVID-19 disease and patients with obesity, which could explain the increased disease severity and mortality risk faced by obese patients, and also elderly patients, who are infected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 disease.

New obesity guideline: Address root causes as foundation of obesity management
besity management should focus on outcomes that patients consider to be important, not weight loss alone, and include a holistic approach that addresses the root causes of obesity, according to a new clinical practice guideline published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) http://www.cmaj.ca/lookup/doi/10.1503/cmaj.191707.

Changing the debate around obesity
The UK's National Health Service (NHS) needs to do more to address the ingrained stigma and discrimination faced by people with obesity, says a leading health psychologist.

Study links longer exposure to obesity and earlier development of obesity to increased risk of type 2 diabetes
Cumulative exposure to obesity could be at least as important as actually being obese in terms of risk of developing type 2 diabetes (T2D), concludes new research published in Diabetologia (the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes [EASD]).

How much do obesity and addictions overlap?
A large analysis of personality studies has found that people with obesity behave somewhat like people with addictions to alcohol or drugs.

Should obesity be recognized as a disease?
With obesity now affecting almost a third (29%) of the population in England, and expected to rise to 35% by 2030, should we now recognize it as a disease?

Is obesity associated with risk of pediatric MS?
A single-center study of 453 children in Germany with multiple sclerosis (MS) investigated the association of obesity with pediatric MS risk and with the response of first-line therapy in children with MS.

Women with obesity prior to conception are more likely to have children with obesity
A systematic review and meta-analysis identified significantly increased odds of child obesity when mothers have obesity before conception, according to a study published June 11, 2019 in the open-access journal PLOS Medicine by Nicola Heslehurst of Newcastle University in the UK, and colleagues.

Obesity medicine association announces major updates to its adult obesity algorithm
The Obesity Medicine Association (OMA) announced the immediate availability of the 2019 OMA Adult Obesity Algorithm, with new information for clinicians including the relationship between Obesity and Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes Mellitus, Dyslipidemia, and Cancer; information on investigational Anti-Obesity Pharmacotherapy; treatments for Lipodystrophy; and Pharmacokinetics and Obesity.

Read More: Obesity News and Obesity Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.