stunted children and body mass composition

Prolonged under nutrition during inter uterine and early child hood development is common in developing countries and causes stunting. ( Martin et al British J Nutrition , 92, 819-825 ,2004 ) . The prevalence in stunting world wide is 33%. Stunting in adults reflects the adequacy of nutrition during the pregnancy, breast feeding and subsequent feeding. Stunting paradoxically is related to increased body fat and overweight. . The metabolic response of stunted children is different to normal build children with diets when fed a diet with a higher fat content . The result is a greater increase in weight and waist:hip ratio.
In the study of Martin et al 2004, they analysed changes in body composition of stunted children during a fellow up period in poor children in Sao Paulo Brazil.. The stunted girls developed with less lean mass and greater body fat than normal controls.
One explanation is a preferential utilisation of protein stores as an energy store. The problem is one of biological adaptation to better metabolic efficiency.
It also raises an interesting point for our own populations. There has been a impoverished population in our society for ever. There is at the present time a more bountiful provision of cheap food. The impoverished now have ready access to cheap food and this is leading to obesity in a population metabolically ill prepared for the present abundance.

Martin Eastwood
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