Childhood malnutrition and growth in a rural area of Western Kenya



An anthropometric survey was carried out on 1,383 school students aged 5–17 years in Suba district (a rural area of western Kenya). Body size and proportion were computed from height, weight, sitting height, arm circumference, and skinfolds. The aim of the study was to evaluate patterns of growth and nutritional status of the Luo population by assessment of the prevalence and trends of malnutrition among children and adolescents. Very few age-groups show significant sex differences for height, body weight, and arm muscle area. However, there are several differences in skinfold thicknesses and arm circumference, always with higher mean values in girls. Analysis of the nutritional status (weight-for-age, height-for-age, and BMI-for-age) shows significant differences among the age-groups in both sexes. Boys present lower Z-scores than girls and there are higher percentages of malnourished subjects (stunted and underweight) among the males. The Luo data were compared with those of other African populations. Their body dimensions, nutritional status, and growth are similar to those of the other sub-Saharan samples. In conclusion, the Luo children are generally undernourished at the older ages: adolescents (11–16 years of age) show the most severe undernutrition and the highest percentages of undernourished subjects. In addition to the higher risk of undernutrition in teenagers, an emerging problem of over-nutrition is evident among the younger age-groups, with a higher prevalence in females. These findings are discussed in light of sexual dimorphism in sensitivity to adverse environmental conditions. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2007. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.