News article

Girls, Hispanic children have higher malnutrition rates in US

Posted:  Monday, December 30, 2013

Children who do not receive adequate nutrients are at risk for a number of health concerns. And now, a new study reveals that in the US, Hispanic children and girls have significantly higher rates of chronic malnutrition, leading researchers to call for specific analyses of child nutrition.

Investigators from the latest study published their results in the Pan American Journal of Public Health.

They looked at nutritional status in both Hispanic and non-Hispanic children by studying a representative sample of over 14,000 children from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which was conducted between 2003 and 2010.

All children were living in the US and were between the ages of 2- and 19-years-old.

Among Hispanic children, the researchers found chronic malnutrition was twice as high, compared with non-Hispanic white children.

"Stunting" - defined as low height for age, and which also signals chronic malnutrition - was much higher among Hispanic children than non-Hispanic white children, at 6.1% versus 2.6%.

Additionally, the researchers found that 38.2% of Hispanic children were either overweight or obese, compared with 29.8% of non-Hispanic white children.

Surprisingly, even in the healthy weight category of Hispanic children, 6.8% exhibited stunting, compared with 4.6% of overweight or obese Hispanic children.

Gender differences

Rates of micronutrient deficiencies - vitamin D, iron, folate and iodine, specifically - were much higher among Hispanic children than non-Hispanic whites.

For example, 5.7% of Hispanic children had a vitamin D deficiency, versus only 1% of non-Hispanic children. And the rate of iron deficiency was 5.7% in Hispanic children, versus 1% in non-Hispanics.

However, there is also a difference among genders, the researchers note.

Among girls of all ethnicities, 7.2% had a vitamin D deficiency and 8.9% had an iron deficiency. This is compared with only 4.2% of boys having a vitamin D deficiency and 5.3% with an iron deficiency.

Further highlighting the gender divide in nutritional deficiencies, 27.5% of girls did not have sufficient iodine, compared with 17.3% of boys. An iodine deficiency can cause stunted growth and thyroid or cognitive problems, the researchers say.

Writing in their conclusion, the researchers note:

"The results of this article draw attention to the need for more specific and differentiated analyses of child obesity and nutritional status among and within ethnic, sex, and age groups."

They add that "public health interventions need to consider the entire range of weight statuses and micronutrient deficiencies to eliminate inequities among minority children, especially girls."

Additionally, they say the deficiencies observed in their study are particularly alarming, "because the same problem could be transmitted to the next generation, thus contributing to an intergenerational transfer of poor health and continued disadvantage."

For study details:-Click Here!