Weight status and food habits of preschool children in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates: NOPLAS project

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Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition


© 2018, HEC Press. Background and Objectives: Eating habits established during childhood affect health in later life. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has a high prevalence of obesity in adolescents and adults; however, data on the health of preschool children are scarce. This study assessed the weight status and dietary habits of Emirati and non-Emirati children attending nurseries in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Methods and Study Design: Weight and height were measured in children aged 18 months-4 years. Z scores for height-for-age (HAZ), weight-for-age (WAZ), and BMI-for-age (BAZ) were calculated based on WHO protocols. Parents completed a questionnaire regarding demographics and food frequency. Results: A total of 203 children participated. Abnormal anthropometric status (z scores of < -2 or > 2) for WAZ was indicated in 12.8% of Emirati children versus 1.4% of non-Emirati children (p=0.008) and for BAZ in 19.9% of Emirati children versus 8.4% of non-Emirati children (p < 0.05). Emirati children exhibited higher prevalences of malnutrition (4.3% vs 1.4%), wasting (11.5% vs 2.8%), and overweight (8.5% vs 4.2%) than non-Emirati children and consumed discretionary calorie foods and typical components of Emirati cuisine (rice, fish, and pulses) significantly more often than non-Emirati children. Conclusions: Similar to findings in other countries undergoing economic transition, an indication of a double burden of disease was revealed in children attending nurseries in Abu Dhabi. Malnutrition and overnutrition were represented, especially among Emirati children, and were seemingly related to lifestyle rather than genetics. Therefore, policies focusing on child health interventions are required.

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