Lung Function and Nutritional Status of Semi-nomadic Fulani Children and Adolescents in Northern Nigeria

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The Fulani are semi-nomadic pastoralists of the western Sahel whose culture and economy are centered on cattle. We have shown previously that Fulani children and adolescents (5–18 years old) are stunted and underweight. Nutritional status and lung function were studied in Fulani children and adolescents (n = 70), aged 6–18, and compared with a non-Fulani, rural Nigerian control group (n = 153) of the same age. Participants were restricted to healthy individuals with no prior history of respiratory disease and no symptoms of an upper respiratory tract infection within the past 6 weeks. Significant deficits in forced vital capacity (FVC; Fulani males, 1.51 l; non-Fulani males, 1.86 l, p = 0.009; Fulani females, 1.36 l; non-Fulani females, 1.79 l, p < 0.001), forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1; Fulani males, 1.44 l; non-Fulani males, 1.76 l, p = 0.02; Fulani females, 1.24 l; non-Fulani females, 1.69 l, p < 0.001), and peak expiratory flow rate (PEFR; Fulani males, 2.69 l/s; non-Fulani males, 3.48 l/s, p = 0.002; Fulani females, 2.29 l/s; non-Fulani females, 3.35 l/s, p < 0.001) were found in both the Fulani boys and girls compared with the non-Fulani controls. The diminished lung function in the Fulani group could be attributed to respiratory muscle weakness or an overall deficit in energy.

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