Overweight, obesity and underweight in rural black South African children

  • AL Toriola
  • VK Moselakgomo
  • BS Shaw
  • DT Goon
Keywords: body mass index, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adolescents, South Africa


Background: The objective was to estimate the prevalence of overweight, obesity and underweight conditions among rural black children in South Africa. A cross-sectional study was undertaken. The setting was Mankweng and Toronto, both rural settlements in Capricorn district, Limpopo province, South Africa. Participants were 1 172 school children (541 boys and 631 girls) aged 10-16 years.
Method: The prevalence of overweight, obesity and underweight was examined, using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) body mass index (BMI) cut-off points. Height and body weight were measured using standard techniques. Results were analysed with student t-test statistics, with probability level set at p-value ≤ 0.05.
Results: The percentage of children who were at risk of overweight were higher in girls (11%) than boys (9.1%), whereas obesity occurred more among the boys (5.5%), compared with the girls (4.4%). Applying the CDC cut-off points of 5th < percentile to define underweight, 25 (4.6%) and 35 (5.2%) of boys and girls respectively were underweight.
Conclusion: Similar to previous studies, this study indicates that overweight and obesity are high among South African children, even in rural settings. The study also demonstrates that underweight is prevalent among the sampled children. This supports the notion of a double burden of disease in developing countries.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2078-6204
print ISSN: 2078-6190