African Journal for Physical Activity and Health Sciences

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Body composition of normal and malnourished rural South African children aged 6-13 years: Ellisras Longitudinal Study

M. Mantsena, K.D. Monyeki, M.A. Monyeki, J.S. Brits, A.L. Toriola, A.C.T. Kangolle


The aim of this study was to investigate the body composition of normal and malnourished children aged 3 to 11 years. A total of 2198 children aged 3 to 11 years who are part of the Ellisras Longitudinal Study were grouped into 2066 normal and 132 stunted and 2070 normal and 128 wasted children using –2 SD of NHANES cut off point. Body composition was evaluated using anthropometric variables (weight, height, triceps, subscapular, suprailiac, biceps skinfolds). The anthropometric variables were measured according to the protocol of the International Society for the Advancement of Kinanthropometry. Children were categorized by the age groups as defined by Deitz (1999) for the development of obesity in children. The study showed that percentage body fat was high for the stunted children in the infancy and adipose rebound period (16.8% and 15.3% of stunted children compare to 15.6 and 14.9% normal children respectively), while the normal children had high significant percentage body fat at the adolescence spurt (14.6% compared to 15.5%). Inversely, normal children had high percentage body fat compared to wasting children throughout the age category. The fact that stunted children exhibit high percentage body fat at an early stage may clearly depict that stunting at an early stage of this population may be associated with overweight. Further studies are required to look into the development of obesity among children in this rural population so as to combat this health epidemic at an early stage.

Key words: Percentage body fat, malnutrition, obesity, rural South African children.

(Af. J. Physical, Health Education, Recreation and Dance: 2003 9(2): 224-237)

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