Indexed on: 05 Feb '08Published on: 05 Feb '08Published in: Annals of medicine
Countries undergoing the nutrition transition are experiencing a progressive increase in obesity and nutrition-related chronic diseases (NRCDs). In transitional countries, stunting (shortness for age) and micronutrient deficiencies (iron, vitamin A, and zinc) in children coexist with obesity and NRCDs originating the double burden of nutritional disease. The causal web for obesity and NRCDs is complex and multifaceted; changes in diet and physical activity of the population are likely the main concurrent determinant factors. However, recent evidence suggests that specific patterns of prenatal and postnatal growth are also potential contributors. Evidence indicates that intervention strategies to prevent malnutrition should emphasize improvements in linear growth in the first 2-3 years of life rather than aim at gaining weight. Avoiding excessive weight gain relative to height gain (BMI) is especially relevant after the first 2 years of life. Routine assessment of child growth based on the new World Health Organization (WHO) standard, defining energy needs based on the recent Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO)/WHO norms, and providing critical micronutrients to support lean mass growth are critical to prevent obesity and NRCDs starting early in the life course. These actions should contribute in the prevention and control of obesity in childhood and thus help prevent NRCDs in future generations of adults.