Diet diversity is negatively associated with stunting among Ethiopian children 6-23 months of age

Diet diversity is negatively associated with stunting among Ethiopian children 6-23 months of age

Stunting (i.e. height-for-age z-score (HAZ)) during childhood is a major public-health problem in underdeveloped and developing countries as a result of chronically not meeting nutrient requirements for growth between conception and 24 months of age. The presence of stunting indicates that nutrient intake has been suboptimal not only for growth, but also for other critical functions of the body, such as brain development and the immune system.`

Findings from the 2011 Ethiopian Health and Demography Survey indicates that 44 per cent of children under five years-of-age were stunted and 11 per cent were consuming minimum diet diversity (DD), a World Health Organization core indicator for infant and young child feeding. Several studies show that DD is positively associated with overall dietary quality, micronutrient intake of young children and household food security. A higher DD has also been associated with better nutritional status of children in developing countries. This association has not yet been explored in Ethiopia, where the prevalence of stunting is high and overall dietary quality is likely to be poor. This analysis was undertaken to determine the association between dietary diversity and stunting among children 6-23 months of age in Ethiopia using National Food Consumption Survey data.

In this research, nationally and regionally representative data from the 2011 Ethiopian National Food Consumption Survey, weighted for relative population sizes (n=4100 children 6-23 months-of-age), is used for analysis. A DD score (DDS) is calculated for each child by categorizing individual foods consumed in quantities > 5g in the past 24-hours into the United Nations Children’s Fund seven food groups for DD. Chi-square test is used to determine in which regions children are consuming minimum DD, defined as having a DDS ≥4 food groups. The association between stunting and DDS is determined using logistic regression model, including all potential socioeconomic, demographic and physiological confounders.

Findings demonstrate that limited diversity in complementary foods is a predictor of stunting among children 6-23 months of age in Ethiopia. This reinforces the notion that improved food variety may indeed reflect a greater likelihood of meeting daily energy and nutrient requirements, which would result in improved nutritional status among young children.