Maternal and child undernutrition and overweight in low-income and middle-income countries

Maternal and child undernutrition and overweight in low-income and middle-income countries

Maternal and child health: examining both undernutrition and obesity

Maternal and child undernutrition, including stunting, wasting, and deficiencies of essential vitamins and
minerals, was the subject of a Series in The Lancet in 2008, which quantified their prevalence, short-term and long-term consequences, and potential for reduction through high and equitable coverage of proven nutrition interventions. The Series identified the need to focus on the crucial period of pregnancy and the first 2 years of life - the 1000 days from conception to a child’s second birthday during which good nutrition and healthy growth have lasting benefi ts throughout life. The 2008 Series also called for greater national priority for nutrition programmes, more in tegration with health programmes, enhanced inter sectoral approaches, and more focus and coordination in the global nutrition system of international agencies, donors, academia, civil society, and the private sector. 

The authors of this paper in The Lancet 2013 Series on Maternal and Child Nutrition reassess the problems of maternal and child undernutrition, and examines the growing problems of overweight and obesity for women and children and their consequences in low-income and middle-income countries. They also assess national progress in nutrition programmes and international actions consistent with the recommendations from the 2008 Series.

Key messages from the paper include:

  • Stunting prevalence is slowly decreasing globally, but affected at least 165 million children younger than 5 years in 2011; wasting aff ected at least 52 million children
  • Suboptimum breastfeeding results in more than 800 000 child deaths annually
  • Undernutrition, including fetal growth restriction, suboptimum breastfeeding, stunting, wasting, and defi ciencies of vitamin A and zinc, cause 45 per cent of child deaths, resulting in 3.1 million deaths annually
  • Prevalence of overweight and obesity is increasing in children younger than 5 years globally and is an important contributor to diabetes and other chronic diseases in adulthood
  • Undernutrition during pregnancy, affecting fetal growth, and the first 2 years of life is a major determinant of both stunting of linear growth and subsequent obesity and non-communicable diseases in adulthood.

Please note: This paper is accessible upon free registration to The Lancet.

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