Author(s): Leenstra T, Petersen LT, Kariuki SK, Oloo AJ, Kager PA,
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Abstract OBJECTIVE: Nutritional status is an important marker of overall health and linear growth retardation has serious long-term physiological and economic consequences. Approximately 35 and 29\% of preschool children in sub-Saharan Africa are stunted and underweight, respectively. There is relatively little information available about the nutritional status in adolescents, the age group with the highest growth velocity after infancy. We conducted a series of cross-sectional surveys to determine the prevalence and main risk groups for malnutrition and to describe the associations between age, sexual maturation and nutritional status in adolescent schoolgirls in western Kenya. DESIGN: Three cross-sectional surveys; one in Mumias, using random sampling in all schools, and two surveys in Asembo, using a multi-stage random sample design. SETTING: Public primary schools in two different rural malaria endemic areas in western Kenya with high levels of malnutrition in preschool children. SUBJECTS: In all, 928 randomly selected adolescent schoolgirls aged 12-18 y. RESULTS: Overall prevalence of stunting and thinness was 12.1 and 15.6\%, respectively. Of the total, 2\% were severely stunted. Menarche and start of puberty were delayed by approximately 1.5-2 y compared to a US reference population. The prevalence of stunting and thinness decreased with age and mean height for age z-scores converged towards the median of the US reference curve. Girls who had not yet started menstruating were more likely to be stunted than the girls of the same age who were post-menarche. CONCLUSIONS: Stunting and thinness are common in young adolescent schoolgirls in these poor rural settings in western Kenya, but the prevalence decreases with age, providing observational support that children catch up on incomplete growth attained earlier in life due to a maturational delay of 1.5-2 y allowing prolonged growth.
This article was published in Eur J Clin Nutr
and referenced in Journal of Nutrition & Food Sciences