Long-term changes in childhood malnutrition are associated with long-term changes in maternal BMI: evidence from Bangladesh, 1996-20111,2

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Nutritional transition (from under- to overnutrition) among women of reproductive age (15-49 y) is becoming increasingly common in many developing countries, including Bangladesh. However, the influence of this transition on the nutritional status of children <5 y of age (U5s) is unknown.


The aim was to determine whether a nutritional transition has taken place in the past 15 y (1996-2011) among U5s and their mothers in Bangladesh and to examine how the association between maternal body mass index (BMI) and malnutrition in U5s has changed over time.


We analyzed data assembled from 5 Demographic and Health Surveys conducted between 1996 and 2011 in Bangladesh to describe the nutritional status of 28,941 U5s and their mothers. A Poisson regression model was used to examine the associations between maternal BMI and stunting, underweight, and wasting in U5s over time.


A nutritional transition among mothers of U5s was observed between 1996 and 2011. The height- or length-for-age and weight-for-age z score distributions of U5s showed consistent improvement; however, there was no indication of a nutritional transition. An interaction was found between maternal BMI categorized as underweight [BMI (kg/m2) <18.5], healthy BMI (BMI: 18.5-24.9), and overweight or obese (BMI ≥25) and year of survey on the risks of stunting and underweight in children. In 1996, children of underweight mothers had a 5% higher risk of being stunted than those born to healthy-BMI mothers (RR: 1.05; 95% CI: 1.00, 1.10); in 2011, children of underweight mothers had a 21% higher risk of being stunted (RR: 1.21; 95% CI: 1.13, 1.30). Maternal overweight or obesity was associated with a reduced risk of malnutrition in children.


A nutritional transition among U5s has yet to occur in Bangladesh. However, our results indicate that improvement in maternal BMI in the past 15 y was accompanied by a reduction in malnutrition in U5s.

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