Obesity On The Rise In Indonesia

Indonesia is experiencing both under- and over-nutrition at the same time, prompting researchers to call for a public health policy overhaul.

AsianScientist (May 18, 2016) – Obesity is on the rise in Indonesia, one of the largest studies of the double burden of malnutrition in children has revealed. The study, published in PLOS ONE, is the first of its kind in Asia and has global implications.

Affecting many low and middle-income countries, the double burden of malnutrition describes the prevalence of both under- and over-nutrition in the same place at the same time. It can have a devastating impact on individuals and economies.

Researchers drew on a sample of children from the Indonesian Family Life Survey to examine risk factors for stunting (a sign of chronic under-nutrition, which affects height and brain development), underweight and obesity.

While the prevalence of under-nutrition in young children decreased over the past 14 years in Indonesia, more children are becoming overweight.

Stunted or underweight children tended to have a lower birth weight, an underweight or short parent, and a mother who never received formal education. The likelihood of being stunted was also higher among children in rural areas.

Meanwhile, children were more likely to be overweight or obese if they were in the youngest age group studied (two to 2.9 years), were male, had overweight or obese parents, and had fathers with high formal education.

In a paper published in Public Health Nutrition last month, the authors looked at the children who were both stunted and overweight. Stunted children were significantly more likely to be overweight than children of a healthy height.

The research revealed inconsistent trends in the prevalence of being stunted and overweight, but associated risk factors were being young, being weaned after the age of six months, having short mothers or living in rural areas.

“The double burden of malnutrition is complex and wide-reaching,” said lead author Dr. Cut Novianti Rachmi, an Indonesian physician and PhD candidate in the Discipline of Child and Adolescent Health at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead Clinical School.

“It can occur in the same country, city or household—and also within the same individual, either at the same time, or during different stages of a person’s life.”

“It’s concerning that stunted children are also most at risk of being overweight or obese. There are serious potential consequences for their future health—as well as the broader financial and societal costs of managing the predicted associated rise in non-communicable diseases.”

Rachmi added that while a variety of factors could account for the rising levels of obesity in Indonesia, including increased national wealth and availability of processed foods, more research is required to understand the causes.

The researchers called for an overhaul of policies related to these areas, saying that there are major, global policy implications for their findings and an urgent need to modify current interventions and strategies to fit this condition.

“We won’t adequately tackle the double burden of malnutrition unless under- and over-nutrition are dealt with as part of the same problem,” they said.

The article can be found at: Rachmi et al. (2016) Stunting, Underweight and Overweight in Children Aged 2.0–4.9 Years in Indonesia: Prevalence Trends and Associated Risk Factors.


Source: University of Sydney; Photo: Shutterstock.
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