Why are nutritionally stunted children at increased risk of obesity? Studies of metabolic rate and fat oxidation in shantytown children from Sao Paulo, Brazil

Daniel J. Hoffman, Ana L. Sawaya, Ieda Verreschi, Katherine L. Tucker, Susan B. Roberts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

248 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: Previous research suggested that nutritionally stunted children may have increased risk of obesity, but little is known about potential underlying mechanisms. Objective: We sought to test the hypothesis that stunted children have a low metabolic rate and impaired fat oxidation relative to nonstunted children. Design: The subjects were 58 prepubertal boys and girls aged 8-11 y from the shantytowns of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Twenty-eight were stunted (height-for-age z score < -1.5) and 30 had similar weight-for-height but normal height (height-for-age z score > -1.5). Parents of children in the 2 groups had equivalent height and body mass index values. Fasting and postprandial energy expenditure, respiratory quotient (RQ), and substrate oxidation were measured with indirect calorimetry in a 3-d resident study in which all food was provided and body composition was measured with dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. Results: Stunted children had normal resting energy expenditure relative to body composition compared with control children (4559 ± 90 and 4755 ± 86 kJ/d, respectively; P = 0.14) and had normal postprandial thermogenesis (2.4 ± 0.3% and 2.0 ± 0.3% of meal load, respectively; P = 0.42). However, fasting RQ was significantly higher in the stunted group (0.92 ± 0.009 compared with 0.89 ± 0.007; P = 0.04) and consequently, fasting fat oxidation was significantly lower (25 ± 2% compared with 34 ± 2% of energy expenditure; P < 0.01). Conclusions: Childhood nutritional stunting is associated with impaired fat oxidation, a factor that predicted obesity in other at-risk populations. This finding may help explain recent increases in body fatness and the prevalence of obesity among stunted adults and adolescents in developing countries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)702-707
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Volume72
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

Keywords

  • Brazil
  • Children
  • Energy expenditure
  • Fat oxidation
  • Malnutrition
  • Metabolic rate
  • Obesity
  • Respiratory quotient
  • Stunting
  • Undernutrition

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