Children can have a growth retardation and be overweight at the same time. This symptom of malnutrition is known as “stunting overweight”.
Stunting overweight can be observed mainly in Russia, Mexico, Brazil, Cameroon, South Africa, Indonesia, Jamaica and China, but is found in almost all poorer countries – and is barely researched upon. So far there are no nationwide and country-specific data on the spread of stunting overweight. Double counting of obese and growth-retarded children further complicates statistical extrapolation (1).
Scientists from the London School of Economics and Political Science have now highlighted this issue and systematically compiled reports on stunting overweight in low and middle income countries (LMICs) (2). They assume that stunting overweight may mark a new social class, especially affecting children of overweight mothers. One reason for this could be the change in nutritional patterns in LMICs to eating habits that are known to be associated with a number of chronic illnesses.
The experts recommend pooling the public health efforts in the prevention of stunting and obesity (3).
(1) B.M. Popkin: The Nutrition Transition in Low‐Income Countries: An Emerging Crisis. Nutrition Review. 1994. 52(9): 285-298, available at https://academic.oup.com/nutritionreviews/article-abstract/52/9/285/1890842?redirectedFrom=fulltext
(2) K. Bates et al. Double burden or double counting of child malnutrition? The methodological and theoretical implications of stunting-overweight in low and middle income countries. J Epidemiol Community Health 2017. 71(8):779-785, available at http://jech.bmj.com/content/71/8/779.long
(3) Cf. WH Dietz. Double-duty solutions for the double burden of malnutrition. Comments. The Lancet. 2017. 390(10113):2607–2608, 16 December 2017, available at https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(17)32479-0/fulltext and Levels and trends in child malnutrition: UNICEF/WHO/World Bank Group Joint Child Malnutrition Estimates, Key findings of the 2018 edition, available at https://data.unicef.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/JME-2018-brochure-web-1.pdf